Sodium makes its home in most diets through the liberal use of table salt and consumption of packaged and processed foods. While high sodium intake isn't seen as the devil anymore in terms of high blood pressure, it may still cause an upset in the balance of electrolyte minerals and increase need for these other minerals. Sodium needs vary between individuals and are most dependent on things like sweating, water intake, and whether or not metabolic conditions exist. The RDA for sodium is set at less than 2000-2500 mg per day, and the American Heart Association argues that less is better, despite the fact that having too little sodium can actually cause severe side effects and death. They also have a tendency to recommend that people consume highly inflammatory industrial seed oils for good heart health, so take that with a grain of salt (pun intended).

The primary benefit of lowering sodium consumption is through having a better electrolyte balance and lowering dietary needs for potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Functions

  • Proper muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Essential for nerve transmissions through sodium channels
  • Maintaining cellular fluid levels
  • pH balance of the body and blood

Primary deficiency symptoms and diseases

  • Hyponatremia (very low sodium in the blood)
  • Muscle cramps and weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Coma and death

Food sources

All whole foods contain at least some sodium and it is actually possible to meet sodium requirements without using salt. The foods highest in naturally occurring sodium are as follows.

  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Vegetables

Supplementation

Most people supplement sodium on a regular basis in the form of table salt. Technically, any form of added salt which does not naturally occur in foods is considered supplemental. Those who sweat or urinate a lot may require extra sodium, but most people actually don't require more than what is naturally in food. Athletes or laborers who sweat profusely would be the most likely candidates for added salt.

  • Any type of added salt
  • Salt tablets
  • Electrolyte supplements

Who needs it most?

  • Athletes
  • Day laborers
  • Those who sweat or urinate frequently
  • People with GI disorders that cause vomiting or diarrhea
  • Participants in water chugging contests

Other tips

  • Usually, sodium deficiency is caused by over consumption of water without adequate electrolytes.