Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Article # 385. Sodium in the Diet




Sodium in the Diet
Quick Facts...
  • Sodium is one factor in the development of high blood pressure.
  • Sodium is a component of salt; table salt is 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride.
  • Most foods contain some sodium because it is naturally present.
  • Several food industries are trying to find methods to decrease sodium in the food while ensuring its safety.
  • The maximum recommended level of sodium intake is 2,300 mg per day.
Sodium is a part of everyone's diet, but how much is too much? Under ideal conditions, the minimum sodium requirement is about 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. This is less than 1 teaspoon of table salt. The maximum recommended level of sodium intake is 2,300 mg per day.
Sodium intake is one factor involved in the development of high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. Hypertension tends to develop as people age. Some individuals are "salt sensitive," so reducing intake of sodium helps to reduce blood pressure levels. A high intake of sodium early in life might weaken genetic defenses against developing high blood pressure. Experts recommend not to wait and see if you develop hypertension, but to reduce sodium intake while blood pressure is still normal. This may decrease your risk of developing hypertension.
Other important considerations are healthful eating, maintaining ideal body weight, physical exercise, stress management and the amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet. Foods rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium are strongly recommended as protective measures against hypertension.
For people who already have hypertension, following an overall eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and restricting sodium intake to 1500mg per day may be useful for lowering blood pressure. Recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute, the DASH diet is lower in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium than the typical American diet.

Why Is Sodium Needed?

Sodium has an important role in maintaining the water balance within cells and in the function of both nerve impulses and muscles. Any extra sodium is excreted by the kidneys. Consuming excess sodium may lead to edema or water retention. Women who consume excess sodium may be at higher risk for developing osteoporosis even if calcium intake is adequate. Some evidence suggests that for each teaspoon of salt (2,000 mg of sodium) consumed, considerable calcium is excreted in the urine.
Athletes and heavy laborers are sometimes concerned about not getting enough sodium to replace what is lost through perspiration. However, salt tablets are not recommended. They may increase dehydration and actually lower performance. Sodium losses are easily replenished at the next meal.


Where is Sodium Found?

Many people think of salt and sodium as being the same thing, but they are not. Table salt is 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. It is the sodium portion of salt that is important to people concerned about high blood pressure. Keep in mind some sodium is naturally present in most foods.
Most of the sodium in processed foods is added to preserve or flavor them. Salt is the major source of this sodium. Salt is added to most canned and some frozen vegetables, smoked and cured meats, pickles and sauerkraut. It is used in most cheeses, sauces, soups, salad dressings and many breakfast cereals. It is also found in many other ingredients used in food processing. The food industry is trying to find ways to decrease sodium while ensuring food safety.


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