What is sodium?
Sodium (Na) is an electrolyte that has an important role in our bodies. Sodium and potassium work together to generate nerve impulses in the body. Sodium helps us to maintain hydration, as water is attracted to it. In the typical American diet, it is not hard to get enough sodium, and many over-consume it.
Where do we get sodium?
Sodium is in table salt (sodium chloride), and it is used to preserve food. Some of the highest sodium foods are:
- Restaurant foods
- Canned foods
- Pre-made meals
- Packaged snacks
- Deli meats and cheeses
- Sauces and marinades
These foods are delicious and convenient, but it's best if we understand the implications of excessive sodium intake.
Why should we limit our sodium intake?
Awareness of sodium content is especially important for people with high blood pressure/hypertension and congestive heart failure (CHF). Excess salt intake means excess water retention, making our blood pressure rise and increasing the workload on our hearts. In this case, it’s best to most often cook at home to monitor added salt, purchase low or no salt canned goods, enjoy unsalted or lightly salted snacks, etc. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 2300 mg, which is about one teaspoon of table salt. Doesn't seem like much, does it? For someone with hypertension or CHF, lowering sodium further may be beneficial.
When might someone require more sodium?
Highly-active individuals may require beverages with electrolytes (especially sodium) to help them rehydrate after strenuous exercise. The need is even higher in very hot temperatures.
Is pink salt healthier?
No, it’s just prettier and more expensive. It is still sodium chloride. Table salt, otherwise known as “iodized salt,” has been fortified with iodine, an important mineral for thyroid health and cell metabolism. Pink salt is not iodized, which means that it is lower in iodine and actually less healthy!