By: Charlotte Miller
Sodium’s role in the body and high-sodium foods to avoid
The mineral sodium, more commonly referred to as salt, has made headlines recently as a harmful and over-consumed ingredient in food products that can raise blood pressure. The recommended amount of sodium for an adult is under 2,000mg per day (Sizer, Whitney, & Piché’s, 2020). Sodium deficiencies virtually do not exist because of high salt concentrations in the majority of processed food products. Most people – specifically Americans – consume too much sodium because of this. While there are many reasons contributing to the problem, processed meats and frozen food play a large role.
In Sizer, Whitney, & Piché’s nutrition book, they review sodium’s functions and the mineral’s main food sources:
Major Roles of Sodium:
- Maintain fluid and electrolyte balance
- Essential for muscle contraction
- Facilitates heartbeat
- Nerve transmission
- Sends signals throughout the body
Foods High in Sodium:
- Processed foods
- Pre-made salads and dinners
- Microwavable meals
- Table salt
- Frozen meals
- Cold cuts
- Most canned soup
Fact vs. Fiction:
- “High sodium, or salt, intake makes you bloated and swollen”
- FACT: Well, sort of a fact. When you over-consume sodium, your body compensates by increasing water weight to balance the sodium-water fluid balance in your body (Sizer, Whitney, & Piché’s, 2020).
- “Overconsumption of sodium can lead to hypertension”
- FACT: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, results from consistently too much salt in your diet which stiffens arteries where oxygenated blood flows (Sizer, Whitney, & Piché’s, 2020).
- “I don’t salt my food so my sodium intake is probably low”
- FICTION: Even if you are not actively salting your food, most packaged food and all processed foods have high amounts of sodium already in them. It is important to look at the nutrition panel and note the amount of sodium in the product. Awareness is key!
Sizer, F. S., Whitney, E. N., & Piché, L. A. (2020). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies (15th ed.). Toronto, Ontario: Nelson.