Sodium is a mineral that plays an important role in the human health. It is popular for muscle contractions. Losing high amounts of sodium and other electrolytes through sweat causes muscle cramps in athletes — a reason sports beverages are used to replace electrolytes during intense workouts. Sodium is also involved in the regulation of blood volume, blood pressure, and nerve function. Low sodium level in the blood leads to a hyponatremia, resulting in symptoms such as confusion, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and irritability, seizures, and even coma. Sodium chloride, popularly known as table salt, is a common form of sodium in diets. It is composed of about 60 percent chloride and 40 percent sodium.
Benefits of Sodium
Regulates Fluid Levels
Sodium regulates fluid levels in the human body. Its balance is linked with that of water. Sodium gateways and channels are what pump water into the cell and regulate the amount of extracellular fluid in the body.
Regulates Body Waste
Sodium controls the reaction of the kidneys and the frequency and content of urination by altering the proportions of acid-base alkali phosphates in the body.
Sodium prevents sunstroke or heat exhaustion by replacing the loss of essential electrolytes. Besides water, drinking fluids containing salt and sugar is favorable against sunstroke. Salt can also be mixed with the juice of raw mangoes to provide greater relief. Sodium levels and fluid balance are highly essential for athletes and people who live extremely active lifestyles.
Controls Glucose Absorption
Sodium enhances the absorption of glucose by cells, leading to the smooth transportation of nutrients in the body’s cell membranes.
Controls Blood Pressure
Sodium maintains normal contractions of the heart. It maintains the blood pressure but should be taken in moderation.
Sodium fights against the free radicals that accelerate the aging process. It further helps to restore youthful and healthy skin, hence its usefulness in anti-aging creams.
Eliminates Carbon Dioxide
Sodium removes excess carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the body.
Which Foods are High in Sodium?
- Burritos and tacos
- Savory snacks
- Bacon, frankfurters, and sausages (like hot dogs)
- Other Mexican mixed dishes
- Tomato-based condiments
- Salad dressings and vegetable oils
- Yeast bread
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Poultry mixed dishes
- Plain milk
- Ready-to-eat cereal
- Mashed potatoes and white potato mixtures
- French fries and other fried white potatoes
- Eggs and omelet
- Pasta mixed dishes except for cheese and macaroniMeat mixed dishes
- Cakes and pies
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Savory snacks
How Much Sodium do you Need?
The American Heart Association says that the body needs about 1500 milligrams of sodium per day to function properly. What does this mean? About less than a quarter teaspoon, only. Now that’s less than what a number of people eat in a single meal, how much more an entire day! People who consume large amounts of sodium are at a risk of heart disease and stroke.
Let’s Discuss what Excess Sodium Causes
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts some stress on the heart, making it work harder, and placing extra strain on the heart muscle. It also causes damage to the arteries and increases the risk of heart disease.
A high-sodium diet leads to calcium loss through the urine. This causes bone loss, which may eventually develop into osteoporosis.
Excess salt increases the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that is linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer.
High blood pressure as a result of excess sodium consumption leads to damage of the delicate blood vessels in the kidneys. When kidneys don’t function properly, they’re unable to get rid of sodium as they ought to. This leads to higher blood pressure and increased kidney damage.
What about Too Little Sodium?
Higher Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is common among obese, prediabetic and diabetic people, however, it may show up in anyone who has a low salt intake.
Chronic hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the blood) causes falls in elderly individuals. Elderly people who consume less salt have more troubles with gait and attention while walking, leading to terrible falls.
Risk of Depression
Low salt intake brings about signs of depression.
Cutting Down Sodium Intake
Here’s how to achieve it:
- Why eat heavily processed cheeses when you can opt for low-sodium cottage cheese or mozzarella?
- Use cumin to spice up your foods; also use paprika, black pepper, or oregano instead of table salt.
- Instead of bacon, ham, and sausage, eat fresh or frozen beef, pork or poultry.
- Instead of salted nuts, eat roasted, unsalted nuts.
- Eat canned veggies with no added salt, and rinse veggies thoroughly before eating to remove excess sodium.
- Leave the pre-made soup mixes and try making your own at home.
Interesting Facts about Sodium
- Sodium is a silvery-white alkali metal that explodes when brought in contact with water.
- When sodium is brought in contact with water, it explodes, forming sodium hydroxide along with the release of a large amount of heat.
- Sodium is also used to make vapor lamps which are used in street lights.
- Sodium is used in soap manufacturing.
- More than 90% of the sodium present on the earth is in the form of salt.
- Sodium is the fourth most abundant element and makes up almost 2.6% of the earth’s crust.
- Sodium is used in a number of industries to prepare sodium compounds such as common salt, sodium nitrate, baking soda, borax, and others.
Interesting Facts about Sodium Chloride (Table Salt)
- Sodium, along with potassium regulates the fluid balance in the body. Salt regulates blood pressure, aids nerve impulse transmission and enables muscle contractions.
- When salt is sprinkled over cupboards, it keeps ants away. It can be also used to clean coffee pots and can be added to the water in the vase to keep flowers alive for a longer time.
- Sodium chloride affects the fermentation in cheese processing and bread dough development.
- Sodium chloride is used to preserve pickles and other canned products, protecting them from the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold.