We all need sodium. It is essential in small amounts. The problem is, many of us are consuming way too much sodium than what is recommended. This could lead to various health problems. To prevent that from happening, you should know how much sodium in a day to consume.
What is Sodium?
Sodium is a nutrient that helps maintain the right balance of fluids in the body. It influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles and also helps transmit nerve impulses. A major source of sodium in our diet is salt in the form of sodium chloride (which is 40% sodium and 60% chloride).
How Much Sodium in a Day?
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults and children over 14 years old should limit their daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg (the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt). Other organizations have different recommendations. The World Health Organization suggests consuming 2,000 mg of sodium per day, while the American Heart Association advises a sodium intake of between 1,500 and 2,300 mg per day.
Too Much Sodium Can Cause Health Problems
The different recommendations notwithstanding, one thing is clear. Many people are consuming way too much sodium. The average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, much more than what is recommended.
The kidneys balance the amount of sodium in the body. When the body is low in sodium, the kidneys hold on to this nutrient. When the level of sodium in the body is high, the kidneys excrete the excess in the urine.
But if the kidneys cannot eliminate enough sodium, it starts to build up in the blood. Excessive daily sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which causes damage to arteries and blood vessels when chronically elevated. Too much sodium can also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
Main Food Sources of Sodium
Processed foods – Processed foods are usually high in salt and additives which contain sodium. Examples include cold cuts, bacon, bread, pizza, soups, cheese, and fast food.
Natural sources – Some foods that we eat naturally contain sodium. These include meat, vegetables, shellfish, and dairy products. Eating these foods adds to your overall daily sodium intake.
Salt and other condiments – Many food recipes require the use of salt. Condiments may also contain sodium. For example, one tablespoon of regular soy sauce has about 1,000 mg of sodium.
Sodium-related Terms on Food Packages
When buying food, it’s important to read the label. Here are some terms that you might see in the food packaging and what they mean.
- Sodium-free – Less than 5 milligrams of sodium for every serving
- Very low sodium – 35 milligrams or less for every serving
- Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less for every serving
- Reduced (less) sodium – At least 25% less sodium than the regular version
- Light in sodium – At least 50% less sodium than the regular version
- Unsalted – No salt is added during food processing
Tips for Cutting Back on Sodium
Eat fresh foods – Most fruits and vegetables are low in sodium. Fresh meat has lower sodium content than processed meats such as bacon, luncheon meat, hot dogs, and ham. This is another reason to go vegan!
Choose low-sodium products – If you can’t avoid buying processed foods, pick those that are labeled “low sodium.” Buy plain whole grain rice or pasta instead of products with added seasonings.
Reduce salt whenever possible – Don’t add too much salt when preparing soups, stews, casseroles, and other dishes that you cook.
Limit use of condiments – Soy sauce, sauces, dips, ketchup, and mustard all contain sodium.
Use herbs and spices to season foods – You can use fresh or dried herbs, spices, and juice from citrus fruits to jazz up your meals.
When buying food, you should be aware of the sodium content. For processed and packaged foods, you can see it on the label, specifically in the nutrition information. Check the serving size as well. Your sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 mg per day. Healthy eating involves knowing how much sodium in a day to consume and making sure that your daily intake is within the recommended levels. For more health and fitness tips, sign up to FITin56 now!