Sodium is a metallic element, highly reactive and found naturally abundant in salt. We are told we consume too much sodium, and it is often reported, by many of the major health organizations, to cause high blood pressure, which is a common risk factor for heart disease and stroke. According to the World Health Organization, heart disease and strokes are the two most common sources of death in middle and high income countries. So, what is too much?
Too much Sodium
Processed food, some energy drinks, canned soup…They’re all loaded with sodium, and introduced in the form of salt and is measured in milligrams (mg). I wondered what that look likes, and wanted to know how much is a milligram… so, I looked it up.
1500mg = 3/4tsp of salt
2300mg = 1tsp of salt
This is actually the amount recommended by many of the major health organizations, to NOT exceed! Sodium binds water, and the more we have in our bloodstream, the more water it binds, thus increasing blood pressure. Whether this increase is dramatic enough to cause a problem with your heart needing to work harder, or elevated strain on your arteries and other organs can only be determined by your doctor. The USDA, AHA, AND and the ADA say we consume too much sodium and they report that the average intake of sodium amounts to about 3400mg…nearly double!
We need Sodium
As stated above, sodium binds water, and is also electrically charged, which together helps enhance the flavors in foods. This is also crucial in maintaining a certain level of electrical gradients across our cell membranes within the body, and is important for nerve transmission, muscular contraction and a number of other important functions. Basically, without sodium, we could not survive.
Furthermore, reducing sodium has shown adverse health effects according to many studies, such as increasing LDL and Triglycerides, and causing insulin resistance that could lead to obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In athletes, a low sodium diet could cause hyponatremia, which is a condition that occurs when the needed sodium is not present to regulate the water in your body, and this is very dangerous.
It’s all about balance and moderation, and not focusing so much on sodium, but on your overall health. Knowing what’s best for your body is also very important, for instance, a low-carb diet will lower insulin levels and cause your kidneys to excrete excess sodium, if that’s a problem. Exercise will reduce blood pressure, and will improve other areas of your life in more ways than can be imagined. Guaranteed, that eating food alive in nutrients and drinking lots of clean water is good for everyone, which will assure a long and healthy lifestyle, and that is very sustainable!