Properties and Benefits of Sodium: As a trace element with great influence on our health and general well-being, sodium is by far the most controversial subject when it comes to keeping in good health. While it is important to consume sodium on a daily basis, too much can be extremely harmful and pose serious health risks in the long run. A moderate consumption of sodium can help regulate body fluids, improve glucose absorption and support heart activity. Exceeding daily recommended intakes can lead to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and stroke.
Sodium is a general term commonly used for designating table salt. However, it is really a chemical element with a wide range of uses. It is used to make soap, salt, drying and deicing agents, glass, dyes, bleach, as food preservative and so on. Table salt is actually called sodium chloride because it is half sodium, half chlorine. Despite being blamed for a myriad of health problems, sodium is actually good for us, but in moderation.
Yes, there are health benefits to sodium consumption. For example, it improves glucose absorption and regulates body fluids, blood pressure and blood volume. In addition to this, sodium helps create a good environment for electric impulses from nerves to pass onto tissues. A moderate consumption of the mineral is sure to keep the body in good shape and great health.
The recommended daily intake of sodium for an average person is between 500-1,500 mg. A tolerable upper intake is of about 2,300 mg per day, but this too may pose some health risks. People over 40, diabetics, children and people suffering from kidney problems, high blood pressure or any other form of cardiovascular disease should limit their sodium consumption to 1,500 mg a day.
A high sodium intake will increase blood volume which will lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. According to statistics worldwide, high blood pressure and stroke are two leading causes of death. Other unpleasant effects of sodium overdose include water retention and weight gain, cellulite, excess fluid in the brain, even coma.
Too little sodium in one’s diet can pose health problems as well. Signs and symptoms of sodium deficiency include: a general state of weakness, lethargy, drowsiness, confusion, dizziness as a result of low blood pressure, weight loss, even diarrhea, vomiting and headaches. A deficit will also have negative effects on muscle coordination because sodium is needed for transmitting electric impulses from nerves to muscles throughout the body, heart included. As you can see, the mineral is of crucial importance for the good functioning of both the nervous and the cardiovascular system.
How do we maintain a balanced sodium intake? This is a truly difficult task especially for people in love with processed foods. While adding a pinch of salt to half a plate of delicious steamed broccoli with sour cream and garlic topping is the healthiest thing you can do, drinking two cans of soda and eating one bag of nachos can supply you with more sodium than necessary in one meal.
How come, you ask? It turns out that sodium is added (in fairly large amounts) not only to chips, but also in sodas, doughnuts, pizza, canned soup and all that is sweet and salty, from popcorn to candy. Let’s not get started with restaurant food or traditional home-cooked meals based on old family recipes. As delicious as some foods or dishes may taste, their high sodium (or salt) content should be a deal-breaker.
Try cooking your own food, add less salt to it, include more vegetables and fruits in your diet, eat more natural and less processed and you will surely manage to keep your sodium intake within normal limits. In just a few weeks you will learn to appreciate what food really tastes like and you will literally start craving healthier food. Bananas, potatoes, spinach, papaya, lentils and beans are great sources of potassium.
By including them in your diet you can limit the damaging health effects of a high sodium intake. Find out what works for you and start eating less salty and less processed. Once you get a taste of what healthy feels like, you will never again settle for anything less.