Some of us can’t imagine a life without coffee. After tea and water, it’s one of the most consumed drinks in the world. Coffee increases attention, focus, and concentration. It even has plenty of antioxidants to boot! Now, overdoing caffeine has annoying side effects. But did you know that it can also deplete an important mineral, sodium?
But wait. Aren’t we told to limit sodium? Americans already eat way too much of it anyway. The recommended intake is 1,500 milligrams, but the average person gets a whopping 3,400. Most of this comes from processed, packaged food. High sodium intake is a major risk factor for hypertension, heart disease, and kidney issues.1 2
Caffeine being a diuretic removes excess salt through urination. This might seem like a good thing, but for some, it can be too much. Drinking lots of coffee may eventually lead to sodium deficiency.3 In fact, salt might be what your morning needs. Here’s why.
Role Of Sodium In The Body
Despite its poor reputation, we need sodium to survive. This mineral controls fluid balance and blood pressure along with the functioning of muscles and nerves.4 Without enough of it, water will move into cells and make them swell up, brain cells being the most sensitive to this. Symptoms of sodium deficiency include these:
- Appetite loss
- Muscle weakness, cramps, spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
Sodium deficiency is also known as hyponatremia. It isn’t common, but diuretics like caffeine can increase the risk. Chances are even higher with overhydration, hormonal problems, excessive sweating, and exercising in hot water.56
Connection Between Coffee And Sodium
For every 90 milligrams of caffeine or about one small cup of coffee, 437 milligrams of sodium is lost through the urine. Yet, the average American consumes 300 milligrams daily. That’s about 1,442 milligrams of sodium lost each day!78 It’s even worse on a hot day or during exercise. You naturally lose sodium through sweat, but if you drink caffeine, the loss is even higher.9
Remember, coffee isn’t the only thing with caffeine. Tea, energy drinks, chocolate, and cola all have some. Energy drinks are becoming especially popular, so it’s important to be careful.10
Tips To Prevent Sodium Deficiency
Follow simple dietary changes to make sure you get adequate sodium.
1. Add Sodium To Coffee
Forget the sugar and cream. To prevent sodium depletion, add a pinch of salt. A dash will bring in 155 milligrams. You won’t even taste it.11
2. Make Salted Creamer
Hate black coffee? Make a nutritious non-dairy creamer with almond or coconut milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin spice for autumn flavors.
3. Eat Sodium In Food
Extreme sodium restriction plus diuretics don’t mix. If this sounds like your lifestyle, add a small amount of sodium to your diet. At the same time, consider cutting back on caffeine.
To properly function, the body only needs 500 milligrams each day. Don’t overdo these tips as sodium adds up fast. This approach isn’t for everyone. It’s best for people who take diuretics or sweat too much and drink lots of caffeine. If you’re at risk for sodium deficiency, talk to your doctor before adding salt to your coffee.
|↑1||Healthy Beverage Guidelines. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑2||How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day? American Heart Association.|
|↑3, ↑10||Caffeine. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Sodium in diet. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Low sodium level. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑6||Hyponatremia. Korey Stringer Institute, University of Connecticut.|
|↑7||Passmore, A. P., G. B. Kondowe, and G. D. Johnston. “Renal and cardiovascular effects of caffeine: a dose–response study.” Clinical science 72, no. 6 (1987): 749-756.|
|↑8||Somogyi, Laszlo P. “Caffeine intake by the US population.” Prepared for The Food and Drug Administration and Oakridge National Laboratory (2010).|
|↑9||Del Coso, Juan, Emma Estevez, and Ricardo Mora-Rodriguez. “Caffeine during exercise in the heat: thermoregulation and fluid-electrolyte balance.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 41, no. 1 (2009): 164-173.|
|↑11||Basic Report: 02047, Salt, table. United States Department of Agriculture.|