Sodium is a mineral that is necessary to our body’s health. Unfortunately, sodium has been vilified and become synonymous with salt, which is not entirely correct. Table salt is only 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Sodium has also been given a bad rap when associated with high blood pressure or hypertension; sodium intake is only one factor involved in the onset of high blood pressure. When sodium accumulates, our heart works harder and, coupled with other factors such as stress, poor nutritional choices and a lack of exercise, our blood pressure begins to rise. Sodium works with our kidneys to help maintain the right fluid balance in our body. Our kidneys excrete or retain sodium depending on whether we’re on the low side or the high side of the sodium see-saw. But, if for some reason they can’t excrete the overabundance, sodium begins to accumulate in our body. Are you trying to shake the salt habit? Are you beginning to understand that all those daily pinches and dashes can really start to add up? Under ideal conditions, your daily intake should hover around 1,500 milligrams. And this is definitely do-able if you steer clear of processed and canned foods and stick with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. Tipping the salt shaker in your favor might include using herbs to flavor your food, always reading the label on food products, and something as simple as covering up a few holes on your salt shaker with a piece of tape. To read the full article on sodium, go to www.nutters.com. And to make 2011 your healthiest year ever, join Nutter’s on Facebook/nuttersnatural for your daily health tip
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE
A recommended dietary/daily allowance is the daily dietary intake level of a nutrient considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board (U.S.) to meet the requirements of nearly all healthy individuals in each life-stage and gender group. It is calculated based on the estimated average requirements (EAR). For sodium, the RDA is 1,500mg, with the upper daily limit being 2,300mg.
A diet high in sodium intake can fall anywhere between 4,000 & 6,000mg per day. A diet low in sodium intake can fall anywhere between 400 & 1,000mg per day. The Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation Health Check nutrient standard for sodium suggests cutting back on salt and recommends setting a target of 2,300mg or less per day, which is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of salt which can add up pretty quickly. 1
What Does That Look Like?
Bacon, regular, cooked
Tomato juice, canned
Eggs, whole, raw, whites only
Eggs, whole, raw, yolks only
For a great list of sodium in common foods, CLICK HERE . As a side note, this list was created by Dr. Alec N. Salt from Washington University in St. Louis.
THE FUNCTIONS OF SODIUM IN THE BODY
A Short Lesson in Basic Biochemistry
All matter is composed of a limited number of substances called elements. An element is a unique substance that cannot be broken down into simpler substances by ordinary chemical methods. Examples of elements include many commonly known substances, such as oxygen, carbon, gold, copper and iron.
Atoms are the building block of an element, or the smallest particle that still retains its special properties.
The Structure of an Atom
An atom consists of:
•A central nucleus filled with protons
and neutrons, and
In general, atoms are electrically neutral, but when they gain or lose electrons from their outer, or valance, shell their positive and negative charges are no longer balanced and charged particles, called ions, result.
Atoms interact in such a way that they always look to have eight electrons in their valance shell. In the example above, sodium has an “odd-man-out” electron in its valance shell, whereas chlorine is looking to gain an electron to make the outer seven equal eight.
Atoms approach each other very closely so that the electrons in their valance shell can interact. As the atoms approach each other sodium will give chlorine its extra electron so that each will have eight in its valance shell. The resulting substance is called sodium chloride, or salt. In this new arrangement, sodium changes from neutral to positively charged and chlorine changes from neutral to negatively charged.
Why did we go down this detour on biochemistry? Because in order to have a discussion about sodium, we need to first have a look at electrolytes.
An electrolyte is a “chemical in the body that when dissolved produces ions, conducts an electric current, and is itself changed in the process.” 2
Chemically, electrolytes are substances that become ions in solution (when dissolved in fluid) and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. Electrolytes are present in the human body, and the balance of the electrolytes in our bodies is essential for normal function of our cells and our organs. Common electrolytes in our body include sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate. 4
Sodium is the major positive ion in fluid outside our cells. All body fluids, including blood, contain sodium. Sodium is necessary for maintaining proper fluid balance, regulating blood volume, pressure and pH. It is also needed for stomach, nerve and muscle function. Many processes in the body, especially in the brain, nervous system and muscles require electrical signals for communication. The movement of sodium is critical in the generation of these electrical signals, or impulses. Too much or too little sodium therefore can cause cells to malfunction.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN OVERABUNDANCE OF SODIUM?
In this case, it’s not a deficiency that we have to worry about, but an overabundance. Too much sodium in the diet is one of the contributing factors to high blood pressure which, in and of itself, substantially increases the risk of developing heart disease and/or stroke. Too much sodium in the body can also have an adverse affect on the kidneys.
The best way to avoid excess sodium is not by putting down the salt shaker, although that’s a great beginning. Steer clear of processed foods and stick to a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products. Excess salt in the diet is readily absorbed from the blood and is excreted through the kidneys via urine so make sure you’re drinking 8+ glasses of water per day. Sodium is also lost through sweat so get regular exercise each day, vigorous enough to make you sweat. Most importantly, talk with your primary health care provider about monitoring your efforts and following your progress.
Dangers of low sodium intake
Although sodium deficiency is rare, it can occur, most likely in people who take diuretics for high blood pressure, especially if they simultaneously adhere to low-sodium diets. Symptoms of sodium deficiency can include abdominal and/or muscular cramps, confusion, dehydration, depression, dizziness, fatigue, headache, heart palpitations, an impaired sense of taste, low blood pressure, memory impairment, muscular weakness, poor coordination and weight loss.
There are many salt replacements on the market, including magnesium chloride and potassium chloride. These will provide a similarly, but not identical, flavor without the negative effects of sodium. Smaller amounts are better when using these products as too much can give food a chemical taste. You’ll have to try out a few to see which one suits you best.
Sea Salt – All salt originates from the sea. It is harvested from ancient dry sea beds or the living ocean. The dry sea beds have usually lost some mineral components to leaching through rain water, but they’ve also gained some other minerals based on the geology of the area. Whole salt from the living sea has a mineral profile (of nearly 60 trace minerals) that is the most similar to that of our blood. Whole natural salt is slightly grey and may even have pinkish, bluish or other mineral hues. It will be either large granules, crystals or a powder. Celtic sea salt, Dead Sea salt and Himalayan sea salts are examples of whole food varieties.
Different types of Salt
For a full explanation of table salt, iodized salt, kosher salt, sea salt and rock salt, CLICK HERE.
NUTTER’S CAN RECOMMEND…
“Just A Pinch” Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel is harvested in the Guerrande region of France. It is harvested from the very top layer of the famous French salt ponds. The unique shape of the young crystals are formed as they grow downward.
“Just A Pinch” New Zealand Organic Sea Salt
Use for cooking, roasting, grilling, salads, chicken, red meat, fish and as a finishing salt.This Pacific sea salt is harvested from the deep clear water of the great southern oceans. There are no chemical additives or processing aids used in New Zealand natural sea salt. Certified organic by Bio-Gro New Zealand.
“Just A Pinch” Salish Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt
Use for cooking, roasting, grilling, salads, chicken, red meat, fish and as a finishing salt.This salt is slow smoked for 24 hours over northwest Red Alderwood. It starts with “all natural” Pacific sea salt, which absorbs the full flavor of the smoke. No artificial coloring or flavoring is added.
“Just A Pinch” Bolivian Rose Andes Mountain Salt
Use for cooking, roasting, grilling, salads, chicken, red meat, fish and as a finishing salt.This salt is hand gathered from the pristine Andes mountains in Bolivia. Ancient sea salt deposits were covered with volcanic lava creating this high mineral salt.
“Just A Pinch” Himalayan Pink Mountain Salt
Use for cooking, roasting, grilling, salads, chicken, red meat, fish and as a finishing salt.This pure hand-mined salt is found naturally deep within the pristine Himalayan mountains. This 250 million year old, Jurassic era sea salt is known for its healing properties.
FURTHER READING SUGGESTIONS…
1. How to Follow a Low Sodium Diet
Click Here to Read more…
1. Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation
2. Barron’s Medical Guides, Dictionary of Medical Terms, Fourth Edition
3. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Click Here to Read More
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.