McLean Life Balance

5 Things You Need to Know About Recommended Daily Sodium Intake

1. The Right Amount of Sodium

The recommendation for sodium intake is less than 2,300 mg/day for adults. This equals about one teaspoon of table salt. Most people consume far too much sodium through processed foods and table salt, therefore, this recommendation is set at an upper limit. Special populations including those diagnosed with high blood pressure or at risk for high blood pressure should limit sodium consumption to 1,500 mg/day. The minimum requirement of sodium for normal body function is about 500 mg/day.

2. Dangers of Too Much Sodium

Sodium can have a direct relationship with blood pressure. Excessive sodium consumption can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It is a good idea to become familiar with labels on processed foods and check sodium content. Some canned soups have as much as 1,000 milligrams of sodium per serving. Also, limit salting food at the table. Taste it first to determine if you really need to add more from the shaker. When eating out remember that many foods are heavily seasoned with salt during preparation.

3. Low Levels May Be Dangerous Too

While too much is unhealthy, sodium is still necessary for the body to function normally. The health conscious athlete or physically active person might be in danger of low sodium levels. Those with a diet of mostly fresh foods and large amounts of water may take in little sodium. When this is combined with intense and prolonged physical activity which causes sodium loss through sweating, deficiency may occur. Sodium deficiency is also called hyponatremia. Initial symptoms are fatigue and confusion, but it can then lead to more serious conditions of seizure and even coma and death.

4. Why Sodium is Important

Sodium is an electrolyte and plays a key role in hydration. Sodium works to push water into cells while potassium does its job of pushing waste out of cells. This balance helps to prevent dehydration and promotes healthy cell function. In addition to its role in cell health sodium is required for nerve function, muscle function and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

5. Healthy Sources of Sodium

Sodium is readily found in processed foods. Unfortunately many of these foods also contain excess calories, saturated and trans fats and preservatives. It is best to limit the consumption of these foods as they often also contain excessive amounts of sodium. There are some processed foods that fit into a healthy diet and also provide some sodium. Be aware of food labels to ensure that you stay under the daily limit of 2,300 mg. Salted nuts provide healthy fats, protein and fiber along with sodium. Dill pickles, olives and salsas provide sodium without too many calories. Lightly salted whole wheat crackers provide sodium and fiber.