The human body requires sodium for different functions. The right amount of sodium supports muscle function and enables nerve impulse transmission throughout the body. Sodium is also required for balancing of body fluids. However, consumption of too much sodium can also lead to serious health complications. It is, therefore, very important for you to manage your intake of sodium for good health and wellbeing.
How Much Sodium Should You Take?
According to The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, most Americans are known to consume more sodium that they need. Therefore, it is recommended that people should restrict their sodium intake to 2.4g each day. This is an equivalent of 6grams of table salt or at least a table spoon. For people suffering from high blood pressure or people who run the risk of developing high blood pressure, people with diabetes, heart failure or kidney disease, they should limit the intake of sodium to not more than 1.5g daily, which translates to abouttwo thirds of a tablespoon.
For a clearer idea of the right sodium dosage for each day, you can watch this video:
What Are the Negative Effects of Too Much Sodium?
Table salt is simply sodium chloride. This is a crystalline compound that is made up of 40% sodium. Sodium is also naturally contained in different foods. This salt is required for nerve impulses and also for muscle contractions. Sodium attracts water and is hence used by the body as a water regulator for the tissues, organs and blood. Excess sodium is excreted from the body through the kidneys as one of the components that make up urine. When one consumes too much sodium, the kidneys are unable to handle it, thus a lot of it is left in the body. This can lead to serious body disorders.
1. High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is simply the pressure your blood has to use to be able to pump blood through the arteries for every heartbeat and in between beats. The blood volume being circulated is of importance when it comes to blood pressure. When your body has more sodium than the kidneys can handle, the extra sodium will cause water retention and hence cause an increase in the blood volume, which in turn increases the blood pressure. High blood pressure comes with serious health issues, more so because there are no early symptoms of the condition. It is, therefore, very possible to be suffering from blood pressure without knowing.
2. Heart Disease and Stroke
Since too much sodium in the body causes blood pressure, the pressure between the arteries and blood vessels becomes less elastic and thus more prone to condoning buildup of fatty deposits. This causes the arteries to harden (atherosclerosis). When this happens, the blood vessels narrow and the walls thicken. This causes the heart to work even harder to pump blood through the arterieswhich increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and even heart failure. According to studies, intake of too much sodium increases the chances of suffering from a stroke by 23% and heart attack by 14%.
3. Fluid Retention
When the level of sodium in the body is too high, the body retains fluids, which is attracted by sodium. This leads to swelling or edema. Every case of swelling is different in different people. There are some people who are very sensitive to sodium and can develop swelling even after very little intake while others will take time before they develop symptoms.
4. Changes in Urination
It is also possible to have too much sodium in the body as a result of not having enough fluids in the body. This can occur as a result of too much body fluid loss from excess heat, vomiting or prolonged diarrhea. Changes in urination can occur depending on the cause of sodium buildup. When there is too much body fluid loss, the urine output decreases and turns to dark yellow. When high sodium level is caused by kidney disease, the urination is more frequent and is clear.
This is the first sign of high sodium levels in the body. Too much sodium can lead to brain damage and even difficulty in coordinating of muscles. Also, weakness is a common symptom in very severe cases and can even lead to a patient falling into a coma. When high sodium levels remain untreated, they can lead to death.
How to Prevent Consuming Too Much Sodium
1. Consume a Lot of Fresh Foods
Most fresh vegetables and fruits are low in sodium. Fresh meat is also low in the salt as compared to a luncheon meat, ham, bacon, sausages and hot dogs. It is best to invest in fresh or frozen poultry or meat and avoid the ones injected with solutions containing sodium.
2. Go For Products Low in Sodium
If you consume a lot of processed foods, always go for the ones labeled as 'low sodium' foods. Always opt for whole grain cereals as opposed to the ones with added seasoning.
3. Avoid Using Salt on All Your Recipes
It is possible to prepare a number of recipes without salt including stews, casseroles, soups and other main dishes. Always go for cookbooks which focus more on offering recipes catering for the lowering of heart disease and high blood pressure.
4. Avoid Too Much Use of Sodium-Laden Condiments
Some of the most sodium rich condiments include salad dressings, soy sauce, dips, sauces, mustard, ketchup and even relish.
5. Always Choose Natural Herbs, Flavoring and Spices
You can avoid using processed flavors and go for dried herbs and spicesinstead. You can use fruit juices and zest from fruits to add extra flavor to your foods. Sea salt is not always the best alternative since it also has high levels of sodium.
6. Make Wise Choices for Salt Substitutes
Some salt substitutes contain a blend of table salt and other compounds. As a result, one may end up using too much of it to achieve the salt taste. This leads to consumption of too much sodium.
7. Become a Savvy Shopper
It is always advisable for you to read food labels whenever you are shopping for your food stuff. You can get to know the amount of sodium in different foods from the labels on the package.
8. More Ways to Cut Back on Sodium
It is important to learn that the taste of salt is acquired. For this reason, it is very possible for one to cut down on the amount of salt they take and still enjoy their meals.
Some common terms used for low sodium foods and what they mean:
- Sodium-free or salt-free means there is less than 5 mg of sodium contained in a serving.
- Very low sodium means 35 mg of sodium or less in a serving.
- Low sodiummeans 140 mg of sodium or less in a serving.
- Reduced or less sodium product indicates that the sodium contained is at least 25 percent less than the regular version.
- Lite or light in sodium means that at least 50 percent of sodium has been reduced from the regular version.
- Unsalted or no salt added means that there was no salt addition during processing.
Still, some foods with these labels can contain high sodium levels because some of the ingredients may contain a lot of sodium.