Fundamentals of Human Nutrition/Sodium

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9.1 Sodium[edit]

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9.1.1 Sources[edit]

Sodium is found in a wide variety of foods consumed by the general population. More often than not, sodium is found in foods that have undergone processing. The top 10 sources of sodium are “breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes, and snacks,” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The amount of sodium in a given product can be determined from reading the Nutrition Facts panel located on the food product package or box. All nutrients will be listed here. Sodium is measured in milligrams (mg). The amount of sodium can be rounded to the nearest 10 mg measurement for recording purposes. A good rule of thumb for determining whether or not to consume a product containing sodium is to not eat anything with more than 200mg of sodium per serving (Shepell.) Do keep in mind that the serving size listed, as it may be less than what a person would normally consume.

Beyond the label, sodium can be added to meals, especially at fast food chains and restaurant settings. Sodium is thought to make flavors more enhanced, but it also adds unwanted sodium to the food product. Sodium can be found in sneaky, hidden places too. Salt, although while it is a large source of sodium in the diet, it is no the only source of sodium. Baking soda in the form of sodium bicarbonate adds sodium to many processed foods, especially baked products. Flavor enhancers, for example MSG, as well as many preservatives also add unexpected sodium to food. Shepell warns against labels such as “marinated, pickled, smoked or breaded” because they are essentially code names for added salt and high sodium food choices. “A healthy adult should consume no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day (Thomas.) This is the equivalent to about 1 teaspoon. However, most Americans consume a diet that contains much more than the recommended amount. The excessive sodium consumption directly correlates to the increase of blood pressure in the American population. One easy guideline to follow when trying to consume less sodium is to choose foods with less than 5 percent of the daily value as given on the nutrition facts for a 2,000-calorie diet (The American Heart Association.)

Luckily, taste buds in the mouth have a high turnover rate, so they can be “trained” to like new flavors. By lowering the amount of salt added to food, and transitioning to lower sodium alternatives gradually, one can become independent of the amount of salt added to food. Since salt becomes sodium in the body, this would directly decrease the amount of sodium in the blood and decrease blood pressure. Some of the best flavors to substitute in place of sodium are “lemon, ginger, curry, dried herbs (such as bay leaves, basil and rosemary), onion, garlic and dry mustard,” (Thomas.)

There are many sources of sodium lurking in our food. In order to combat sodium, we must first know that places it hides. By monitoring sodium content from reading the Nutrition Facts panel to limiting processed foods in the diet, huge cuts in the amount of sodium in our every day diets will have a huge impact on our health overall, especially blood pressure.

American Heart Association. (2015). Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Top 10 Sources of Sodium. Retrieved from http://www.c

Shepell. (2011). Sodium Overload: Shaking the Salt Habit. Retrieved from

Thomas, G. (2013). Hidden Salt in Foods. Retrieved from

9.1.2 Functions[edit]

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Sodium is one of the key nutrients to hydric balance.

Humans take all the Sodium (Na) that we need in the form of salt. Edible salt is composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl),

Sodium: - Principal cation in extracellular fluid. - Helps to stabilize the potassium/sodium ratio - Regulates blood volume. - Regulates blood pressure. - Regulates osmotic equilibrium. - Regulates acid-base (pH) equilibrium. - Essential for nerve impulse transmission In animals, sodium ions are used against potassium ions to build up charges on cell membranes, allowing transmission of nerve impulses when the charge is dissipated (Wikipedia) - Essential for muscle contraction.

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9.1.3 Requirements[edit]

9.1.4 Imbalance[edit]