Sodium often gets a bad name, but it is an essential nutrient in your diet that has several health benefits that include: (4)
- Maintaining a proper balance of water and body fluids
- Regulating blood pressure and blood volume
- Maintaining proper function of nerves and muscles
Although most people get plenty of sodium each day, sodium deficiency can occur. This is known as hyponatremia, which can be caused by excessive sweating, prolonged activity, or use of diuretics.
Some symptoms of hyponatremia are: (4)
- Low blood sugar
- Muscle cramps
More common than a sodium deficiency is the excessive amounts of sodium that many people receive in their daily diets. The recommended daily allowance is no more than 2300 mg each day (about a teaspoon of salt). Unfortunately it has been estimated that diets in the United States can contain as much as 15 times more than the RDA. Many foods contain sodium naturally, but a lot also have added salt as well.
Too much sodium can have negative impacts on the body. It can lead to hypertension because the kidneys can’t dispose of it fast enough. As sodium increases, the body holds on to water to try to dilute it. This increases blood volume, which makes the heart work harder and adds pressure on the blood vessels. Low potassium levels make the increase of sodium even more dangerous as well. Potassium has an opposite effect on the heart than sodium. While sodium intake increases blood pressure, high potassium decreases blood pressure and helps relax the blood vessels and excrete sodium. Making sure to get enough potassium and limiting sodium is a health goal to strive for each day. (2,4)
There are two groups of people that should get no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. Those include those with pre-hypertension or hypertension: (2)
Sodium in the Schools
Sodium consumption in school meals has also been a recent concern. One study looking at sodium intake among school-aged children found a mean sodium intake of 3279 mg per day. Sodium per calorie and proportions of sodium from food categories were also observed. New nutritional standards have goals to reduce sodium in school meals by 25-50% by 2022. (1)
Restricting Salt Intake Beneficial?
There has been a lot of questioning recently about whether or not restricting salt intake is as beneficial and necessary as we’ve always been told. Many studies have been conducted that show that limiting sodium intake is beneficial to our health. (3) A low-sodium diet may be necessary for those at risk with health problems and everyone should be aware of their sodium intake and monitor it if the consumption is higher than the RDA.
If you have any questions about your specific sodium intake please contact a Registered Dietitian in your area on the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website by clicking Find a RD.
Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,
Cogswell, Mary, Keming Yuan, Janelle Gunn, Cathleen Gillespie, Sarah Sliwa, Deborah Galuska, Jan Barrett, Jay Hirschman, Alanna Moshfegh, Donna Rhodes, Jaspreet Ahuja, Pamela Pehrsson, Robert Merritt, and Barbara Bowman. “Vital Signs: Sodium Intake Among U.S. School-Aged Children — 2009–2010.” MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report25 (2014): 789-97.
“A Closer Look Inside Healthy Eating Patterns.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. ODPHP, 8 Apr. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2016 <http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/a-closer-look-inside-healthy-eating-patterns/#table-1-1>
“Health Risks and Disease.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/sodium-health-risks-and-disease/>.
“Sodium.” Health Supplements Nutritional Guide. Nutritional Health Resource, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://www.healthsupplementsnutritionalguide.com/Sodium.html>.