Sodium in salt plays a vital role in several body functions. Sodium is a mineral that our body must have in order to function properly. It is important to the body because it regulates fluids by balancing them. Sodium also plays a pivotal role in enzyme operation and muscle contraction. It is important for osmoregulation and fluid maintenance of the body. Other health benefits of sodium include heart performance, nervous system and glucose absorption.
Function of Sodium in the body:
The primary source of dietary sodium is sodium chloride or salt, where about three quarters of which comes from processed foods. Our body contains approx. 1.3 gms of sodium and about a third is found in our bones and the rest is our body fluids. It ensures a proper fluid and electrolyte balance in our body, together with chlorine and potassium.
Sodium helps our body retaining the body’s water and pH. It enables our cell walls to draw in nutrients. Sodium also plays a special role in controlling the heartbeat by helping in its origin and maintenance. Although sodium is essential to a number of routine body functions, too much can have adverse effects which can cause hypertension, which in turn can lead to other health problems.
In simple words, the primary function is: Sodium is needed for our muscles and nerves to work properly. The body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume.
Sodium Food Sources:
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. Sodium is also added to various food products. The most common form of sodium chloride is table salt. Foods like milk, beets and celery naturally contain sodium. Drinking water also contains sodium although the amount varies depending on the source. Food sources of sodium including salts are smoked, pickled or refined foods, crisps, condiments such as tomato sauce, tomato ketchup, bread and breakfast cereals.
Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, and canned soups and vegetables are all examples of foods that contain added sodium while fast foods are generally very high in sodium. Some of the added forms of monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are found in items like Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt etc.
Low sodium foods are available in abundance and there are many natural, organic foods that is easily available. Low sodium food in found in every food group, hence you could make many different low sodium meal. Foods such as Breads, Rice, Pastas are very low in sodium and generally don’t add salt when cooking.
Other foods are whole grain bread, puffed rice, rolled oats etc. It is said that the daily requirement of sodium for a normal adult is about 3-5 gms. The sodium is absorbed completely from the diet in the intestinal tract. Normally kidney excretes the excess and deregulates the sodium content in the body. Sodium deficiency leads to muscle cramps, headache, poor appetite and dehydration, but the main sign is fatigue.
Tips on cutting down on Salt:
Avoid salty foods from your diet and reduce the amount of salt while cooking. Sea salt is better than regular salt. Be innovation in seasoning your foods with spices likes herbs, lemon, ginger garlic, pepper or vinegar. Remove the salt shaker from the dining table. It is best to eat home-made foods as they are naturally lower in sodium than most instant and boxed, pre-cooked foods.
If you need to make changes, slowly reduce the amount of sodium in your foods and your taste for salt will change with time. Know your sodium limit: A healthy adult needs to limit their sodium intake to not more than 2,300 mg per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). Add more potassium to your diet as potassium can help lower your blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, beans, and yogurt.
High Sodium Foods includes smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar and anchovies, salted nuts, cheese spreads and sauces, packaged buttermilk, salted crackers, croutons, canned vegetable and vegetable juices, pickles, olives, commercially prepared pasta and tomato sauces and salsa, soy sauce and marinades, salted butter or margarine, ketchup, mustard sauce or paste.
Low Sodium Foods:
All fresh vegetables are low in sodium. They include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chickpeas, cucumber, green peppers, sweet potatoes and lima beans. Fruits particularly low in sodium include: Apples, Bananas, Blackberries, pears, watermelon, cherries, raspberries, peaches etc.
Finally it is always better to know what you are eating, eat in right amounts and have healthy and nutritious diet that will keep you strong and fit. People with high blood pressure, if slightly make some changes in diet with eating low sodium diet will do wonders to their health to stay fit.
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