Sodium is an essential part of our lives. It helps your muscles function, allows your nerves to send impulses throughout your body and helps regulate the balance of fluids in all of your tissues. Too much sodium, however, can lead to many health issues. Managing your sodium intake is very important to maintaining your health and overall well being.
Since sodium attracts water, your body relies on it to help maintain a proper fluid balance. For example, when water is scarce, sodium helps retain water in your tissues, preventing dehydration. If you consume too much sodium, however, this can upset your fluid balance and potentially lead to long-term health problems.
Your kidneys help regulate the amount of sodium in your body. If you take in more than you need, your kidneys remove it by making more urine, a liquid that contains sodium. However, if the amount of sodium in your body is too great, your kidneys may not be able to get rid of the excess. As a result, the extra sodium can cause your blood volume to increase, raising pressure on the walls of your blood vessels and causing high blood pressure. Over time, this can damage your vessel walls, making them less elastic and increasing your risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. High blood pressure can also increase the load on your heart, making it work harder and raising your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says that most Americans consume more sodium than they need. It recommends limiting your intake to 2.4 grams daily, the equivalent of 6 grams of table salt, or about 1 teaspoon. If you already have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing the disorder, or if you have diabetes, kidney disease or heart failure, the Institute says you should limit your sodium consumption to 1.5 grams of sodium daily, or about 2/3 teaspoon of table salt.
To keep your salt consumption in a healthy range, limit your use of table salt, going for salt-free seasoning blends, or herbs and spices that enhance flavor without adding salt; keep several shakers of these spices handy at the table during mealtimes. Avoid salty condiments such as soy sauce, or choose lower-salt versions of these products. Limit your intake of processed foods such as lunch meats, frozen pizza or entrees, soups and fast foods, opting instead for fresh poultry, meat and fish. Omit salt wherever possible when cooking, replacing salt with herbs and spices. Choose reduced-salt canned soups and use salt-free versions of canned vegetables, or rinse salted vegetables before serving. Check product labels to determine the amount of sodium added to prepared foods, watching for sources of hidden sodium such as baking soda and monosodium glutamate, or MSG.
- Nick Cupp, CPT
Nick Cupp is a Certified Personal Trainer at iN8 Fitness (weight loss programs, personal training, rehabilitation) in Lake Mary, FL. He attended the University of Central Florida where he majored in Sports and Exercise Science. He is certified as a trainer through AFAA. Call our Lake Mary office today at 407-302-5161 to see how we can help you meet your weight loss and wellness goals!