Sodium is in nearly every food out there. You know this. Sodium is a very important mineral that acts as an electrolyte – it assists with maintaining blood volume, water balance, muscle contractions, nerve impulse transmission, as well as helping get nutrients across cell membranes and into the tissue. We clearly need it, but Americans typically consume too much of it.
This is a concern for our health, because if the kidneys somehow cease to eliminate excess sodium through the urine, a sequence of events occurs. Sodium will accumulate in the blood, attract water with it, and increase blood volume. This increases blood pressure, which can damage the arterial walls of our blood vessels and consequently increase our risk for congestive heart failure and nephropathy (kidney disease). There’s an overabundance of it in the processed foods we buy. Even worse, fast food and restaurant food is notorious for food items that contain more than a day's worth of sodium. This is a common problem along with a host of other extreme and unnecessary ingredients like saturated fat and refined sugar, but that is a topic for another day.
It should be understood that even though the RDA (recommended daily allowance) is somewhere between 1,500 - 2,400 mg, it's not conclusive. The degree to which sodium affects everyone is very individualistic and depends on age, medical conditions, genes and even physical activity. In an active individual with good blood pressure and healthy kidneys, consuming more than 2,400 mg doesn't guarantee damage. The kidneys are a homeostatic organ and are extremely efficient at regulating blood composition. They remove waste when the compounds are present in greater-than-normal conditions, like sodium. Conversely, they preserve them when they are in less-than-normal conditions.
Therefore, if the body is exposed to too much sodium, the kidneys can excrete what isn’t needed, assuming they are in healthy condition. This means that there isn't a one-size-fits-all recommendation. But because a majority of us take in far too much sodium in general, it's a good idea to make a conscious effort to control sodium intake. Here are some strategies you can use to cut down on sodium intake
- Don’t sprinkle your food with the salt shaker (1 teaspoon accounts for just about
- Limit the use of baking soda (1 teaspoon accounts for half a days worth of
- Watch out for soups, broths and frozen foods. Canned soup and processed
foods commonly contain very high amounts of sodium.
- Control the use of soy sauce and salad dressings.
- Be conscious of deli and cured meat. Salt is used heavily as a preservative.
- Cut down obvious offenders like pretzels, popcorn and packaged snacks.
If you are at risk for or have high blood pressure, heart failure, nephropathy or are of the older population, than the RDA's guidelines should be followed strictly. Even a lower intake of around 2,000 may be safer limit to consider.
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