How Much Sodium We Need Daily And What Are The Sources?
We all are familiar with the word salt, one of the primary sources of sodium, suiting our taste buds. Sodium is an important mineral chiefly found in extracellular fluids and very little inside the cell. This is opposite to potassium which is mostly found inside the cells and little in extracellular fluids.
Importance of Sodium
Sodium and potassium forms an important pair of minerals complementing each other’s action and performing important bodily function such as
- Maintaining blood pressure, fluid volume and pH balance.
- Nervous system requires sodium for proper functioning.
- Essential mineral for the contraction of muscles.
- Necessary for digestion and for elimination of carbon monoxide
- Initiates and maintains contraction of heart
- Control reaction of urine by regulating the proportion of acid and alkaline phosphates in the kidneys.
What should be ideal daily sodium intake?
The daily intake of sodium depends on various factors such as age, climate, occupation and physical activity. The average intake should be:
- Age 1-3: 1000 mg/day
- Age 4-8: 1200 mg/day
- Age 9-50: 1500 mg/day
- Age 51-70: 1300 mg/day
- Age 71 and above: 1200 mg/day
Besides the mentioned above, major health organizations such as American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have a different perspective and recommends going not more than 2300mg per day.
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Why is sodium intake a cause of concern?
The simple reason is we are eating more than necessary. Secondly, salt the major source of sodium in our daily diet contains 40 percent of sodium while little bit occurs in other foods. We can consider following facts.
- WHO recommends adults aged 19 and above should have less than 5 g (just under 1 teaspoon) of salt every day and Indians are taking 10.98 gm (George Institute for Global Health survey), 119 percent more than WHO recommends.
- 90 percent of 10.98 gm salt consumed by Indians is added during cooking or at the table, rest occurs naturally in fruit, vegetables, cereal and other raw ingredients
- Add the processed food in this figure and the number would be much higher
- Not all people are sodium sensitive so it is imperative to know that certain people with diabetes or at the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases must reduce sodium intake in their diet
- Having too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure and can also increase calcium loss from bones
Dietary sources of sodium
Sodium present in a variety of foods is not enough to meet the daily requirements; hence sodium chloride is consumed in the diet. Besides salt, sodium can be found in milk, leafy and green vegetables, fruits, wholemeal flour, bread, pulses, fish and meat, etc. Processed or packaged foods contain a large amount of sodium in the form of preservatives.
Sodium deficiency - Can it occur?
Generally, the consumption is more therefore natural sodium deficiency is rare. But condition such as excessive sweating, prolonged use of diuretics and chronic diarrhea can cause sodium deficiency. Lack of sodium in the body can cause muscular atrophy, slow fat deposit, slow bone growth, lung infection, nausea, etc.
What can we do to moderate our sodium intake?
People who are healthy don't need to lower their sodium intake. However, one should give a cursory look at the following suggestions:
- Avoid heavily processed foods
- Add salt whenever appropriate
- Eat fresh foods
- Consume an unrefined variety of salt such as Himalayan salt that also has nutrients.
So how much salt should we consume daily? We can say it’s a two-way sword. Too little and too much both are harmful. So the sweet spot lies in between. If your doctor has recommended you to lower your sodium intake, you must continue with the plan in order to avoid any complications.