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The Best Sources of Sodium in Food

A balanced diet is essential for a healthy working body. It requires crucial nutritional compounds for your healthy development and proper working of the body’s internal system. Essential nutrients for the growth and maintenance of the body are protein, vitamins, fat, minerals, carbohydrate, and water. However, there are several myths about various nutrients and chemical compounds. These myths claim that certain chemicals and nutrients only impart adverse effects on your health. One such mineral is sodium.

Our body needs sodium for healthy fluid retention in the body. It is a critical nutrient that helps in regulating blood pressure. In addition, it also helps in sending nerve impulses and muscle contraction. Sodium holds significant properties in regulating several functions of the body. Moreover, it also enhances the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body. However, excess sodium consumption also leads to various health issues. Therefore, it is essential to regulate it.

This article explains everything you should know about the role of sodium in your diet.

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What is Sodium?

Sodium is a macromineral essential for the functioning of the body. It is one of the electrolytes which are considered electrically charged ions. Sodium is popularly known for its property of regulating blood pressure. Moreover, it significantly maintains the fluid level and retention in the body. 

Apart from all these magnificent benefits for the body, sodium can also aid in digestion and induce the absorption of nutrients, improving the body’s overall functioning. In addition, it enhances chloride absorption as hydrochloric acid, a crucial component of gastric juice that enables the digestive system to work more efficiently. Sodium is mainly present in the extracellular body fluids which comprise blood plasma, interstitial fluid, lymph and transcellular fluid. It gets excreted from the body through urine, stools, and sweating.

Required Daily Intake of Sodium

The body particularly needs 186 gm of sodium daily for its proper functioning. However, As per ICMR- NIN, with regards to emerging concerns regarding the prevalence of hypertension a safe intake of 2000 mg /day which amounts to 5g/day of salt is recommended in adults.

People over 71 should restrict the consumption to 1.2 grams of sodium to prevent heart diseases and kidney damage because people of this age are more likely to be prone to these diseases. In addition, people suffering from high blood pressure should ideally limit their sodium consumption. It should be less than 1500mg daily. According to WHO, people consuming less than 3 grams of sodium have a higher risk of heart diseases and early death than people consuming 4-5 grams of sodium.

The 7 Best Sources of Sodium in Food

The first thing that strikes our mind is salt when it comes to sodium. Salt is popularly known as the only sodium-rich source, but the truth is that the statement is false. Different foods contain a good amount and can fulfil your sodium requirement with other beneficial nutrients, which helps balance the cause and effects of high intake. In addition, they also facilitate the growth of the body. Given below are several sources of sodium.

1. Beetroot

Beetroot is a good source of sodium with other super-nutritious properties. A raw beetroot contains about 64mg, canned beetroot includes 180mg, and pickled has the highest amount of 200mg compared to raw and canned beets. It can fulfil 9% of the daily intake of sodium.

Beetroot also contains potassium, which helps curb the body’s adverse effects of high sodium. Therefore, it is a healthy yet great choice to provide your body with its sodium requirement to regulate blood pressure. Beetroot is also a great source of folate, which is responsible for preventing congenital disabilities and also helps in maintaining skin, hair, and eye health.

2. Olives

The preservation of olives is in a salty brine solution. As a result, they contain high sodium, with 60mg sodium per olive. However, one should check their consumption as it can raise its levels in the body, therefore, resulting in high blood pressure. Nevertheless, a handful of olives in salad, sandwiches and any other healthy dishes can fulfil the daily intake of sodium.

Apart from the sodium content of olives, they also contain potassium, which helps cancel its adverse effects. Moreover, they are also rich in fibre which ensures better digestion. In addition, olives are low in cholesterol, and the sodium content regularises blood pressure, improving overall heart health.

3. Tomato Juice

Tomato juice is a tasty solution to your body’s sodium needs as it contains 10mg sodium per 100 grams and a whopping amount of 654 mg in a one-cup serving. However, tomato juice has a high amount of sodium than tomatoes. A fresh cup can fulfil its daily intake in a tastier way. One cup of tomato juice has zero cholesterol and 74% vitamin C.

The nutritional content of vitamin C present in tomato juice helps prevent free radicals in the body and reduce inflammation. Along with sodium, the zero cholesterol content can maintain your heart’s health. Suppose someone is already consuming a high salt diet. In that case, one should check the consumption of tomato juice as it can raise sodium levels in the body.

4. Buttermilk

Buttermilk is mainly consumed to hydrate the body and for its cooling effect. But a chilled cup of buttermilk can also provide you with 15% of the daily required sodium intake, which is 363mg in one cup serving. It contains 148mg sodium per 100 grams which equals 6% of the daily intake needed.

Sodium helps in water retention in the body and helps regulate blood pressure. Therefore, buttermilk can be a great choice in the hot climate to hydrate the body while maintaining sodium. It is also rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium in buttermilk prevents the harmful effects of sodium in the body.

Note: Unsalted Buttermilk is not high in sodium. It is recommended to add salt in the buttermilk for best results. 

5. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese offers an astounding amount of calcium and protein. However, it is also rich in salt. What distinguishes cottage cheese from other cheeses is the cream in it. A 100 gram of cottage cheese has 405 mg of sodium, 18% of the Daily Value (DV). In addition, it contains 60 mg calcium or 5% of the DV and 12.4 grams of proteins. The salt content enhances its flavour and texture and works as a preservative. Hence, it isn’t easy to find low-sodium versions of cottage cheese. You should not wash cottage cheese for 3 minutes to lessen its sodium content.

6. Baked Beans

Baked beans are different from other canned beans. You shouldn’t rinse them in water as it takes away the salt content. It also washes away flavourful sauces. A 100 grams of baked beans have 422 mg of sodium, which is 18% of the DV. In addition, they are rich in other nutrients too. They contain 151 calories, 5.1g of total fat, and 5 mg of cholesterol. If you aim to prepare any recipes and include them, you can modify them to reduce added salt. You can eat canned baked beans, either hot or cold, without adding other ingredients.

7. Sauces

You can add sauces to flavour your food while cooking or eating your food. However, this is because they have a high salt content. Soy sauce is the saltiest of all the sauces. A hundred grams of soy sauce has 5637 mg of sodium, 245% of the DV. In addition, it has 53 calories, 0.04g total fat, and 0 mg cholesterol. You can also go for barbecue sauce as it is pretty salty. A hundred grams of barbecue sauce contains 815 mg of sodium, 35% of the DV. Thus, you can try varieties of sauces for healthier and tastier food.  

Health Benefits of Sodium

Prevents Sunstroke

Sunstroke generally occurs when the body’s heat-regulating system fails to respond and work in extremely high temperatures or remains continuously exposed to such temperatures. It happens when the body is facing sodium and water deficiency. It is where sodium comes into play. Maintaining sodium levels can restore the loss of significant electrolytes in the body, which helps in heat regulation. Therefore, according to a study, it prevents sunstroke. In addition, sodium also aids in fluid retention in the body.

Maintains Heart Health

Sodium helps improve heart health by maintaining blood pressure. Balanced sodium levels in the body help regulate blood pressure maintaining the healthy working of the heart, which prevents any damage. It also improves nerve impulses and muscle contraction. Regulated nerve impulses can improve heart rhythm, and regular muscle contractions also help regulate blood pressure.

Improves Digestion

As per a study, sodium helps in nutrient absorption and significantly the absorption of chloride in hydrochloric acid, a vital nutrient of gastric acid. It also helps neutralise stomach acid during digestion to ensure the proper breakdown of food. Therefore, sodium helps in indigestion and heartburn.

Restrains Muscle Cramps

Sodium is an essential electrolyte responsible for maintaining fluid balance in the body. According to evidence, sodium deficiency leads to dehydration, resulting in several consequences. One of them is muscle cramps. Hence, one should stick to the daily required intake of sodium as per the age group to maintain a healthy fluid level in the body.

Sodium Deficiency

Several factors are responsible for sodium deficiency in our bodies. First, there are factors such as medical conditions, medication, low carb diet, excessive sweating, and overhydration, which affect the levels in the body.

Its deficiency can occur when there’s enough fluid in the body but comparatively low sodium levels.Medical conditions such as kidney disorders, heart failure, and cirrhosis retain more fluid than sodium, leading to sodium deficiency.Medication such as thiazide can cause it in people already facing low levels. That is because Thiazide increases sodium excretion through urine.A low-carb diet can also be a reason. A low carb diet lowers the insulin hormone, which eventually points the kidney to restrict reabsorption, thus causing the body to excrete excess sodium.Excessive sweating during physical activity, humidity, high temperatures, and heavy clothing can cause sodium deficiency. For these reasons, one should consume it appropriately before or afterwards.Overhydration can also cause sodium deficiency. As a result, it can lead to hyponatremia. But, again, it is because excess consumption of plain water dilutes the blood sodium levels.

1. Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a condition caused by a deficiency of sodium in the body. It can cause lethargy, disorientation, swelling, and confusion of brain tissues. Excessive loss of sodium due to extreme sweating and high water intake is the primary reason behind hyponatremia.

2. Low Blood Pressure

Sodium helps in fluid retention in the body, which helps in maintaining blood pressure. Lack of sodium will cause fluid retention to drop, eventually lowering blood pressure. Fatigue, dizziness, and tiredness are some of the symptoms of low blood pressure. It can even cause severe damage to the liver and kidneys.

3. Nausea and Vomiting

People with sodium deficiency can also notice nausea and vomiting as symptoms. Vomiting can further drop the sodium levels in the body, leading to severe consequences.

4. Dementia

Sodium deficiency can even lead a person to short-term memory loss. However, you can improve the treatment of the condition under the guidance of a physician.

Potential Side-Effects of Excess Sodium Consumption

Blood Pressure Spike

Consuming excess sodium can cause blood pressure to rise. Excess sodium leads to a higher flow through the blood vessels and arteries. Sodium leads the body to retain more fluid, increasing blood volume, resulting in strains and increased pressure on the organs.

This condition may give rise to heart diseases, heart stroke, and dementia. In addition, increased blood pressure due to high sodium intake is also due to age, genetics, hormones, and obesity, and the condition can even worsen. According to research, high sodium diet can cause blood pressure to rise, and cutting off excess intake can significantly lower blood pressure levels.

Kidney Issues

High sodium content in the body can also lead to an increased risk of the formation of kidney stones. That is because excess sodium in the body elevates the amount of calcium in the urine. Calcium is the central part of stone formation in the kidneys.

Excess sodium increases blood pressure and affects other organs, increasing the risk of kidney failure. In addition, increased blood pressure leads to intense strain and stress on the kidneys, increasing the risk of kidney failure. As per one study, individuals experiencing hypertension having a high sodium-rich diet can increase the risk of chronic kidney diseases.

Chronic Bloating

One of the roles of sodium is to retain fluid in the body. Therefore, over time excess consumption of a sodium-rich diet can cause excess fluid retention in the body. It occurs all over the body, called oedema and can cause swelling in the feet, legs, and hands.

Excess sodium attracts increased fluid in the digestive tract. It can lead to bloating, and consuming a high-sodium diet, in the long run, can make it even more severe. Chronic bloating can increase the risk of heart stroke, kidney failure, and heart diseases.

Weight Gain

Sodium can even make you gain some extra inches. It is associated with fluid retention in the body. Sodium makes one gain weight by increasing fluid in the body, which can get settled afterwards. Generally, most foods containing high sodium content are high in calories, such as unhealthy junk food and processed food. These extra calories, along with high content, lead to weight gain.

High sodium is also associated with the risk of obesity. According to one study, increased sodium intake by 1% resulted in 28%, and 26% increased risk of obesity in both adults and children.

Conclusion

A balanced diet is a key to a healthy working body as it contains all the beneficial nutrients for the growth of the body. The essential nutrients are vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water. Out of the many significant minerals, sodium stands out to be the necessary yet sensitive mineral. It regularises blood pressure and fluid retention. You can have several foods with adequate sodium, such as beetroot, olives, buttermilk, and tomato juice. Salt is the primary source of sodium, but consuming other foods can also provide your body with the recommended amount. However, sodium-rich foods are also processed or picked foods. Therefore the key lies in the balance. Always look for healthier options to meet your sodium requirement. The consumption of sodium depends upon age and medical condition. Therefore, one should adhere to the recommended amount to avoid adverse effects.

One should always check the daily consumption of nutrients because these are the body’s building blocks. Our body needs these vital nutrients to grow and function properly. Deficiency or excessive consumption of any nutrients can lead to several health conditions. Therefore, one should maintain an equilibrium for the body’s healthy functioning without diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. How can I get sodium naturally?

A. The most common source of sodium is salt. Other sources include beetroot, olives, buttermilk, tomato juice, green leafy vegetables and poultry. One should check the consumption of sodium-rich foods as they can raise their levels leading to high blood pressure.

Q. What are the symptoms of sodium deficiency?

A. There are several mild to severe symptoms of sodium deficiency. Low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, dementia, and hyponatremia are symptoms. As soon as one notices these symptoms, one should check their sodium levels and consult a physician to treat the same.

Q. Is salt the only source of sodium?

A. It is a significant myth that salt is the only source of sodium. There are several healthy sources of sodium that can be healthier than consuming a high amount of salt. These include beetroot, tomato juice, buttermilk, and olives.

Q. How do I raise my sodium level?

A. One can consume sodium-rich foods such as beetroot, tomato juice, buttermilk, and olives. Another thing to note is that one should drink adequate water to balance the water to sodium ratio. After any intense physical activity or excessive sweating, one should consume sodium to recover the loss and avoid deficiency.

Q. What is the fastest way to correct sodium?

A. One should correct the sodium levels in the body by consuming sodium-rich foods and increasing dietary protein intake to facilitate water excretion. In addition, in some severe cases, infusion of intravenous sodium solution can correct these levels in the body. However, it would help if you only take these measures with a proper physician consultation to avoid adverse effects.

Q. How do you fix low sodium?

A. Sodium can be fixed naturally in mild cases. One should start having a sodium-rich diet containing potassium to restrain the adverse effects in the body. Limiting excess consumption of water will help maintain the water to sodium ratio. A physician’s consultation is essential to avoid adverse effects in severe low sodium cases.

Q. What causes low sodium?

A.  There are several factors responsible for causing low sodium levels. These include excessive sweating, low carb diet, excess fluid intake, overhydration, medication, and medical condition. Hence, one should avoid these reasons and take measurable action to correct low sodium levels.

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