Sodium is an essential nutrient that is needed by your body. It helps with muscle contractions, maintaining fluid balance, keeps our nerves running smoothly and aids in regulating proper blood pressure. Consuming excess sodium can cause our body to retain excess fluid, which in turn, increases our blood pressure. Prolonged elevation in blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis.
Trace amounts of sodium are found naturally in many foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy milk, nuts, and grains. Sodium is used in processed foods like bread, cured meats, poultry and as a preservative and flavor enhancer.
Prolonged workouts can lead to excessive sweating and sodium losses. This can lead to dehydration, cramping, impaired mental and physical performance. It’s recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to add about 300mg-600mg of sodium during prolonged exercising.
Which salt should you choose? Himalayan & Sea salts contain trace minerals such as iron, manganese, zinc, calcium, and potassium and has a reduced sodium content making it healthier in comparison to table salt. Although, iodized table salt plays a vital role; iodine is a mineral necessary to our body to make thyroid hormones and important hormones vital to bone & brain development. Low levels of Iodine can cause an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) and hypothyroidism.
Processed, packaged foods, and beverages contain high amounts of sodium. If you’re eating a whole food diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains lean meats and healthy fats which only have natural trace amounts, you may need to supplement your sodium. The only way to truly know how much sodium you are consuming is to track your nutrients. You can use an online app to do this. MyFitnessPal is a popular app that can help you track your sodium intake, along with other macro and micro nutrients.
How much sodium do we need daily for optimal health? Men need around 2300mg (1/4-1/2 tsp) and women need 1500 (1/8-1/4tsp). If you have high blood pressure or are on high blood pressure medications, check with your doctor for recommendations.
Written by: Kim Swenson, MFS