Sodium is an electrolyte mineral, commonly known as salt. It helps maintain the balance of fluids and acids in the body.
What food source is the nutrient found in?
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. It is even present in drinking water. Prepared foods contain the most sodium in the form of salt and food additives.
Convenience foods are designed to be quick and easy to transport, store prepare and eat. To do all this, they need stabilizers, preservatives, and ingredients to improve taste. Sodium does all of that. High amounts of sodium chloride are found in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and ham, in canned soups and vegetables, and in many frozen foods. Most restaurant food is also high in sodium.
Food additives that contain sodium include:
- monosodium glutamate, known as MSG
- sodium nitrite
- sodium saccharin
- baking soda, known as sodium bicarbonate
- sodium benzoate
How does the nutrient affect the body?
Sodium performs the following key functions in the body:
- regulates fluid balance by controlling the flow of liquids in and out of each cell
- sparks nerve impulses
- helps the body to process and digest proteins and carbohydrates
Sodium in the diet is measured in milligrams (mg). There is no recommended dietary allowance, called RDA, for sodium. But the National Academy of Sciences states that a person should consume at least 500 mg per day, and that healthy adults should stay within the range of 1,100 to 3,300 mg a day.
The American Heart Association recommends that sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 mg a day.
The average sodium intake in the US is between 4,000 and 5,000 mg per day. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.
Sodium helps cause high blood pressure in some people. Anyone with this problem needs to reduce the amount of sodium in his or her diet.