Sodium Overview, Health Benefits, Source Food, Deficiency, Side Effects

Sodium Overview, Health Benefits, Source Food, Deficiency, Side Effects

Sodium Overview

The essential mineral sodium is as important to the body as is phosphorus, yet it is considered to be a very dangerous mineral. Sodium is also considered to be dangerous like phosphorus primarily due to the penchant for the addition of sodium based compounds to processed and manufactured foods in the modern food technology industry.

Sodium is the primary ion and electrolyte within the body, and it is needed for blood regulation. Serious impairment of bodily function is caused due to the absence of sodium. It is a versatile element and occurs in more than eighty different forms. As an electrolyte, it regulates the bodily fluids and transmits electrical impulses in the body. Unlike other vitamins and minerals, heat has no effect on sodium. Therefore, it can be used in different ways and preparations without losing its effects. Also, it is an important constituent of nerves and helps regulate muscle contractions.

Although sodium is an essential nutrient in any balanced diet, it can also cause stomach cancer and hypertension. People suffering from kidney problems or edema should restrict their intake of sodium to protect against those health risks.

In short, sodium is a vital component in the human diet for the regulation of cellular activity and nervous system function.  Supplemental doses of sodium are necessary when you sweat profusely, have sunstroke, or suffer from adrenal insufficiency. Sodium is regularly excreted in the urine, and poses no inherent toxicity or risk.

Not all sodium is the same. Common table salt and the sodium found in most processed foods are refined and chemically-cleansed and bear little resemblance to the mineral rich natural sodium found in salt waters and organic produce.

Deficiency Causes and Symptoms of Sodium

If you do not supply your body with enough sodium, the deficiency symptoms can range from irritating to fatal. One of the most seriously impacted areas of the body is the nervous system, which will begin to shut down. In general, sodium deficiency leads to the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Muscular irritability
While the deficiency of sodium is dangerous, an excess of sodium can also cause high blood pressure, swelling of the neural tissues and nerves, and cerebral edema. If the situation is not alleviated, it can even lead to a coma.

Reduction in the amount of sodium also reduces the fat accumulated in the peripheral parts of the body. Furthermore, excess sodium elevates the chances of lung infection. Depletion of the level of sodium is an invitation to a host of diseases that can cause exhaustion, exertion and mental apathy.

Sodium intake levels recommended by the American Heart Association are about 1,000 milligrams or less a day for every 1,000 calories of food eaten, the sodium intake should also not exceed the 3,300 milligram daily intake limit for adults according to them.

The daily sodium consumption of the average American is increasing and becoming a problem as much of the intake -somewhere around 4,000 and 6,000 milligrams daily is not needed. Approximately 40% of table salt is sodium and a single teaspoon of this salt will contain about 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium intake levels need to be monitored as sodium can become a major dietary culprit where high blood pressure problems are concerned - thus, excess sodium levels in the body can be a major health risk.

Good food sources of Sodium

Some of the best sources of sodium are apples, common salt, homemade soups, cabbage, egg yolks, pulses, and bananas. Even carrots, baking powder and baking soda, turnips, leafy vegetables and dried peas are good sources. Processed cheese, smoked fish, salty meats, snacks, pickles and sauce contains ample amount of sodium, but they also come with other health concerns.

The product label of most marketed foods will list the actual sodium content of the food product. Sodium content generally tends to be high in all types of fast foods, in processed meats and canned vegetables and soups - lots of extra sodium are added to refined and processed foods.

A lot of sodium is typically part of the processing of foods. Sodium tends to be very high in dried sauce mixes, in boxed dinners as well as snack foods like potato chips and pretzels among other types of foods. Some of the suggestions below can help in reducing total dietary intake of sodium:

Choose not to have a salt shaker on the dining table particularly when eating a meal. Make careful choices about the kinds of foods you eat, choose fresh, frozen or canned food items that have the minimum amount of salts added as flavoring. Choose only unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils when stocking the kitchen. Homemade dishes must be cooked without salt as much as possible and should not include pre-salted high sodium canned vegetables. Try to eat only fat free and unsalted broths, bouillons or soups made from fresh ingredients. Be prepared and specific about what you want to eat whenever you dine out, and select dishes that have as little salt as possible to reduce the intake of sodium. When dining out, make a request for dishes that are prepared without the use of salt or with as little salt as possible. Try to flavor dishes using spices and herbs to enhance the taste of food instead of depending on salt as the main flavoring agent.

Health benefits of Sodium

Health benefits of Sodium: Water Balance

Sodium is one of the minerals that helps to regulate fluid levels in the human body. Sodium and water balance are closely linked. Sodium gateways and channels are what pump water into the cell and regulate the amount of extracellular fluid in the body.

Health benefits of Sodium: Sunstroke

It is caused due to the failure of the heat regulating system in the human body. This form of heat exhaustion is caused due to continuous exposure to very high temperatures. This exposure causes the body to lose its capacity to maintain normal temperature. This condition is further aggravated due to the loss of salt and water from the body. Thus, sodium plays a vital role in preventing sun stroke 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 even more relief. Sodium levels and fluid balance are very important for endurance athletes as well as those who live extremely active lifestyles.

Health benefits of Sodium: Maintains Heart Health

Sodium can help to maintain normal contractions of the heart. It plays a vital role in maintaining the blood pressure of the human body, but an excessive increase in sodium content can dramatically boost the blood pressure and result in serious health complications.

Health benefits of Sodium: Anti-aging

Sodium is an important hydrating product contained in many anti-aging creams. It defends against the free radicals that accelerate the aging process. Furthermore, it helps to restore youthful and healthy skin.

Health benefits of Sodium: Brain Function

The brain is very sensitive to change in sodium levels of the body; deficiency of sodium often manifests as confusion and lethargy. Sodium aids in keeping the mind sharp, and it is an important element for the development of the brain, since sodium works to improve brain function.

Health benefits of Sodium: Muscle Cramps

These are caused mostly during the hot summer months due to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Along with properly hydrating the body, it is also important to supplement one’s body with sodium-rich juices and fluids to restore the amount of electrolytes.

Health benefits of Sodium: Regulates Glucose Absorption

Sodium helps to facilitate the absorption of glucose by cells, resulting in the smooth transportation of nutrients in the body’s cell membranes.

Health benefits of Sodium: Maintains Acid/Base Balance

By altering the proportions of acid-base alkali phosphates in the body, sodium controls the  reaction of the kidneys and the frequency and content of urination.

Health benefits of Sodium: Regulation of Fluids

One of the most notable health benefits of sodium is its ability to balance the osmotic pressure in the human body due to the regulation of fluid in the body’s cells.

Health benefits of Sodium: Eliminates Excess Carbon Dioxide

Sodium plays an important role in the removal of any excess carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the body.

Health benefits of Sodium: Balance of Ions

Sodium shares an association with chlorides and bicarbonates in maintaining a sound balance between two types of ions, both positively charged ions and negatively charged ones.

Health benefits of Sodium: Eyes/Vision

Helps relieve dark circles under the eyes, caused by too much potassium. Too much sodium can lead to puffiness.

Sodium Side effects and cautions

Too much sodium in the diet may lead to:
  • High blood pressure in some people.
  • A serious buildup of fluid in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, or kidney disease.

Healthy adults should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. Adults with high blood pressure should have no more than 1,500 mg per day. Those with congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, and kidney disease may need much lower amounts.

There are no specific recommended amounts of sodium for infants, children, and teens. Eating habits and attitudes about food that are formed during childhood are likely to influence eating habits for life. For this reason, it is a good idea for children to avoid eating too much salt.