Salt – Mr. Pepper’s right-hand man on your dinner table – is it really bad for you?
Sodium has been extremely painted in a bad light in the American diet – mostly because we consume it far too much – but it actually plays key roles in keeping our bodies functioning as they should.
Sodium is an important electrolyte that regulates many bodily functions such as blood pressure, hydration, and proper functioning of muscles and nerves.
What Happens If You Consume Too Little Sodium?
You lose a little sodium every day when you urinate or sweat, but it’s not enough to cause a sodium deficiency unless you are extremely malnourished. Typically, the food we eat provides us with enough sodium to replace whatever we lost.
However, it is possible to be sodium-deficient if you overexert yourself, or when you drink too much water, diluting the sodium concentration in your blood. This can potentially lead to a threatening condition called hyponatremia. Extremely low blood levels of sodium can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps, to shock, coma and even death.
Other factors that could potentially cause hyponatremia are:
- Liver and kidney diseases
- Congestive heart failure
- Taking diuretic medications
What Happens If You Consume Too Much Sodium?
Extremely high sodium levels in the blood can disrupt your body’s fluid balance and contribute to high blood pressure. This can become potentially dangerous if you are already diagnosed with existing conditions such as congestive heart failure, or kidney disease.
How Much Sodium Should You Consume?
The recommended daily intake of sodium is 1,500 mg to replenish whatever you lost to urine and sweat.
Unfortunately, the average American consumes roughly 3,400 mg of sodium due to the prevalence of processed and packaged foods that we naturally grab when we go grocery shopping.
It’s a healthy practice to always check the label on all the food items you are purchasing because it’s very easy to add up on the sodium with just a cup of milk, two eggs, four ounces of beef, an ounce of blue cheese, and a slice of refined white bread.