Sodium is a highly reactive metal. Due to it easily oxidizing in air there is not much of the mineral available in the earth’s crust. Sodium ion on the other hand is highly soluble in water, where it normally is countered by chloride ions and sodium chloride compounds are formed.
Sodium chloride is also known as table salt and is common in many households for cooking purposes as well as occurs naturally in most foods. Celery, beets and milk are good natural sources of sodium. Various sauces and seasonings, and processed foods are usually very high in sodium due to high salt content.
Depending on where it is sourced, water can also contain variable levels of sodium. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium saccharin, monosodium glutamate and sodium nitrite are just some of the compounds that are added to foods to enhance the flavour or act as preservatives.
Role in the Human Body
Sodium is mostly used by the body to maintain the right balance of fluids and electrolytes in the system. This also regulates the blood volume and pressure.
An electrostatic charge is built on the cell membranes by the sodium ions, which allows transmission of nerve signals. Therefore, sodium is in a way responsible for proper functioning of nerves. Relaxation and contraction of muscles is also maintained by sodium ions.
Majority of people unfortunately consume too much of the mineral in their diets. This is due to the high levels of sodium in most processed foods and use of condiments that have become more and more popular over the recent years.
The easily available fast foods usually have even more sodium in them, as a lot of salt is added to the food to make it taste better and to avoid it going bad too soon.
Unfortunately, high sodium intake has been linked to increased blood pressure, kidney damage and even cardiovascular disease and stroke. Since this is a serious issue that affects a large proportion of the world population, various regulations are put in place to try and reduce sodium levels in many foods.
Recommendations for Intake
Since there is so much sodium available in foods deficiency cases are extremely rare. Also there is a complicated mechanism in pace that causes kidneys to release or conserve it as needed by the body in order to maintain fluid balance.
Also, it has been found that the amount of sodium eaten is roughly the same as the amount that is lost through urine and sweat making this another means to maintain the concentration of the mineral well in balance.
There are no actual Recommended Daily Allowances for sodium in many countries as there is so much of the mineral in our diets. However, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for the mineral is set at:
- Helthy adults – 2300 mg per day
- Over 50’s and “salt sensitive” people with high plod pressure – 1500 mg per day
- Over 70’s – 1200 mg per day
It is worth to note that 40% of table salt is sodium and that is where most people get the mineral from. It is strongly recommended by many health professionals and associations to limit our sodium intake to avoid developing high blood pressure and other health problems that are associated with it.