Many of us stare at the side panel of our cereal in the morning and have more questions than answers about the vitamins and minerals we’re consuming: What do they do? How much do I need? How can I add it to my diet? To help you out, here’s a breakdown on sodium that will answer your most important questions.
For health and practical reasons, you can’t remove sodium completely from your diet. It plays a part in keeping fluids balanced, sending nerve impulses, and using your muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic. The problem comes when you take in excess sodium your kidneys can’t remove it. The Mayo Clinic describes the detrimental process: “Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases, which makes your heart work harder and increases pressure in your arteries.” This phenomenon paves the way for cardiovascular issues such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
An overabundance of sodium can cause the body to store more fat, making your cells denser. It makes you feel hungrier and thirstier, which can both contribute to increased calorie intake. Salt also creates inflammation, which impedes oxygen flow throughout the body and ultimately impairs your metabolism. After many years of overindulging in salt, the body’s electrical systems (heart and brain) can experience severe trauma (heart attack and stroke).
It’s Not All Bad
Sodium serves important functions in the body. It regulates body water content because water is naturally attracted to sodium. Abundant in the body, sodium helps regulate the electrical activity of excitable cells such as muscle and neurons. It is very well absorbed from the digestive tract.
Worth Your Salt
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest no more than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium for the average American, and no more than 1,500 mg if you are at least 51, African-American or live with conditions like hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease. However, many Americans take in more than 3,000 mg and some even more than 4,000 mg a day. Where does all this sodium come from?
According to the Mayo Clinic, 70-80% of the sodium consumed in U.S. comes not from the salt shaker, but from packaged, processed, restaurant and store-bought foods. Only about 5% comes from salt added during cooking and about 6% comes from salt added at the table. Dining out can be fun and stress-free, but it’s hard to know how much sodium is being used when you’re not the one preparing your food. Even “low sodium” soy sauce is not necessarily low in sodium.
One of the best ways to control your sodium intake is to cook at home. It’s true that dairy products and vegetables contain small amounts of sodium, but you’ll be better able to control the ingredients of the food you prepare if you do it yourself. Here are some other great tips for reducing sodium in your cooking:
- Use herbs, citrus and salt-free spices to season your recipes
- Read nutrition labels on the foods you purchase to check their sodium content
- Drain and thoroughly rinse canned foods to reduce the amount of sodium in them
- If you must dine out, ask for salt-free or low-salt preparation from the chef and bring your own salt-free seasoning to spice up your meal
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it wouldn’t take much to reduce the causes of heart disease, number of strokes and other health related problems. The study has shown that even a reduction in daily salt intake of just 1 gram (about 400 mg of sodium) would produce “large declines” in the rates of dangerous health events.
A Healthy Solution
One great way to make sure you’re receiving proper nutrition and watch your sodium intake is by taking Reliv products. Reliv Now®, Classic®, SoySentials®, Innergize!® and FibRestore® contain 3% or less of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). ProVantage® and Reliv Now® for Kids contain only 4% of the RDA, so can feel good about adding these supplements to your healthy, low-sodium diet.