Of all the nutrients essential for the body, the most abundant one perhaps is sodium. We simply eat too much of it. While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the sodium intake of anyone over the age of 14 years as less than 2,300 mg per day, on an average, Americans eat 1,000 mg more.1
A teaspoon of salt is all you need a day. If you have high blood pressure, it’s down to 1/2 teaspoon.
Since salt is the best source of sodium, the intake of salt should be restricted to 6 g a day or just a teaspoon!2 If you have hypertension or prehypertension, the limit further reduces to 1,500 mg per day.
Food Sources Of Sodium
Do not blame it on the salt shaker alone. Going by a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, only 5 percent of the sodium that Americans eat is from home cooking and only 6 percent is added at the table. More than 75 percent of the sodium eaten actually comes from outside sources like restaurants and prepackaged and processed foods.3
Restaurant food accounts for 75% of your sodium intake. Bread, cheese, cured meats, and savory snacks at home make up 44%.
The CDC report also says 44 percent of sodium consumed comes from 10 food categories like bread and rolls, cold cuts or cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta mixed dishes, meat mixed dishes, and savory snacks.4
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
When you consume more sodium than required and pump it all into your bloodstream, you are overworking your kidneys. When sodium accumulates, the body retains more water to dilute it, which in turn increases the amount of fluid surrounding the cells and the volume of blood in the bloodstream. This increased blood volume puts too much pressure on the heart and the blood vessels which, in the long run, affects the health of the heart, resulting in high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke and in some cases, even heart failure.
Sodium increases your blood volume, which leads to high blood pressure and can even cause heart failure.
It has also been found that too much salt can damage the heart, aorta, and kidneys without increasing blood pressure. This is bad news for bones, too.5
A study conducted on 1,77,025 participants in 2009 in Canada showed that high sodium intake increased the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases significantly. It has also been found to be associated with hypertension, stomach cancer, and severe asthma. It also causes vascular and cardiac damage independent of high blood pressure and affects calcium and bone metabolism significantly. Sodium-related hypertension is also found in children.
Not just in adults, high sodium intake can cause hypertension in kids also.
The study also proved that if the average sodium intake is decreased by 1840 mg a day, high blood pressure prevalence would decrease by 30 percent in Canada.6
How Do I Limit My Sodium Intake?
Be careful. Sodium is found not just in various types of salt or edible sodium compounds but also in veggies like celery and artichokes.
It may seem daunting in the beginning but with time, you will figure it out. Remember, other than the very obvious salt, there are many unknown sources of sodium. Even if you decide to have completely natural, plant-based food, you need to choose the right kind, since even vegetables like celery and artichoke are found to be high in sodium. You also need to be careful while shopping for packaged food like pickles and peanut butter and read the nutrition labels carefully before buying them.
This is also tricky because sodium doesn’t come just in salt, rock salt, sea salt, kosher salt, or Himalayan pink salt, but it also comes in these following forms:7
- Disodium guanylate (GMP)
- Disodium inosinate (IMP)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Sodium nitrate
- Sodium citrate
- Sodium chloride
- Sodium diacetate
- Sodium erythorbate
- Sodium glutamate
- Sodium lactate
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Sodium metabisulfite
- Sodium phosphate
- Trisodium phosphate
Should I Shun Sodium Completely From The Diet?
No. Sodium is one of the essential nutrients for the smooth functioning of the body and is mostly found in body fluids. Its main function is to attract and hold water to maintain the blood volume and blood pressure. It plays a major role in maintaining the cellular osmotic pressure that helps in the passage of fluids in and out of the cells and in transmitting nerve impulses.8
Don’t boycott sodium altogether. Just bring your salt intake down to 1 teaspoon a day, or a little more if you sweat profusely.
We would say limit your sodium intake and not shun it completely. If you are someone who sweats a lot, a little more than recommended salt won’t do much harm. However, it is always good to keep your sodium intake within the prescribed limit.
|↑1||Sodium In Your Diet. FDA.|
|↑2||How Much Salt Is Good For Me. NHS.|
|↑3||Sources Of Sodium In Your Diet. CDC.|
|↑4||Vital Signs: Food Categories Contributing the Most to Sodium Consumption — United States, 2007–2008. CDC.|
|↑5||Health Risks And Diseases Related To Salt And Sodium. Harvard T.H.CHAN.|
|↑6||Sodium In Canada. Health Canada.|
|↑7||Sources Of Sodium. AHA/ASA.|
|↑8||Lauritzen, Georgia C., and Kris Saunders. “Sodium.” (1995): 1.|