Sodium (Recommended Daily Value and Overconsumption Health Risks)

by James Brown

Updated November 30, 2023
Sodium, found in table salt, is one of several nutritional minerals that our bodies need in small amounts to function properly. Taken in the right quantities, sodium aids proper nerve and muscle function and keeps body fluids at healthy levels. But, when consumed in high amounts, sodium can be toxic, threatening proper organ function and causing serious health issues.

Unfortunately, most people consume a lot more sodium than is healthy. This nutritional oversight can be the cause of lifestyle diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease.

So, what is sodium, and what are its nutritional sources? Most significantly, what is the recommended daily sodium consumption, and what health issues arise from high sodium intake? This article has research-backed answers to all these questions.

Sodium in Salt: Food Sources and How Much You Should Consume?

For most of us, salt and delicious food go hand in hand. And, besides its savory and preservative purposes, salt contains minerals necessary for healthy body functioning.
Scientifically known as sodium chloride, table salt contains these two minerals in a 40:60 percent ratio, respectively.

About 90 percent of the sodium requirement for our body comes from the salt in food. Essentially, we only need about 500mg of sodium daily for healthy body functioning. But, because of modern eating habits, many people consume up to 7 times more sodium daily.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) 2021 Food Facts, most Americans consume about 3,400mg of sodium daily. That is 1,100mg more than the maximum daily intake recommended for reducing chronic diseases. Also, people consume most of this sodium in restaurants, processed, and packaged foods, and less in food freshly prepared at home.

It is advisable to cut sodium intake to the minimum, and the table below shows the U.S. government's recommendation for sodium daily values by age.
sodium data image
Knowing the health risks associated with high sodium consumption can motivate individuals to abide by the daily sodium intake recommendations. This would go a long way in reducing sodium-related health conditions.

Sodium Overconsumption and Lifestyle Diseases

When you take sodium in the right table salt amounts, your muscles and nerves function as they should. Also, the body fluids remain within healthy levels.

Instead, if you consume more sodium than your body needs, your kidneys have to work harder to eliminate the excess amount. If the kidneys can’t get rid of the excess sodium, your body tries to correct the situation by retaining more water. This can increase the level of fluid in your blood and body cells.

As a result, your heart has to work harder to pump the extra blood to other body organs. This puts you at risk of life-threatening health conditions, including:

●High blood pressure (hypertension).
●Cardiovascular (heart) diseases and possible heart failure and heart attack. The risk increases by 6% for every additional gram of sodium
●Stroke.
●Kidney disease.
●Stomach cancer.
●Bone problems (osteoporosis) due to poor heart and kidney function.
●Obesity.
Meniere's disease.

Luckily, there are verified ways of reducing daily sodium consumption that you can adopt for better health.

Reducing Daily Sodium Consumption for Better Health

Eating less salt is the number one way of reducing sodium consumption. From what we’ve said so far, these choices can help you cut sodium consumption in your diet significantly.

●Cook fresh food for your meals with minimal or no salt whenever possible.
●Minimize your intake of processed and restaurant food.
●Check the ‘nutritional facts’ on packaged food and opt for unsalted brands or those with reduced/low sodium.
●Replace salt with flavoring herbs or spices whenever possible.
●Don’t add salt to food at the table.
●Leave salt from food that can go without it, such as rice and pasta.
●Avoid pre-prepared foods, dressings, and sauces.
●Choose fresh meats over smoked, cured, and those with added salt or saline solution.
●Whenever available, make use of ‘low-sodium shopping lists’.
●When dining out, opt for unsalted or minimal salt meals.
●Consume more fruits and vegetables. These do not require salt.
●Work with a professional dietician to help reduce sodium for your entire family.

Restaurants and food manufacturers can play their part in reducing sodium intake among consumers by adopting the FDA Guidelines for Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals. Doing this comes with immense benefits.

Benefits of Reducing Sodium Overconsumption

Reducing sodium usage at home, in restaurants, and when manufacturing processed and preprepared foods has plenty of health and economic benefits. Here are the top three.

●Low sodium consumption will reduce the disease burden for hypertension, heart and kidney disease, stroke, and other sodium-related illnesses and complications.

●Considering that high blood pressure is a primary cause of untimely death, cutting on salt can prevent thousands of deaths related to sodium overconsumption each year.

●Reducing sodium intake will save hypertension patients and the U.S. government billions of dollars each year.

Concluding Thoughts

It is a fact that sodium gives flavor to your meal, and staying within the recommended daily sodium intake is a healthy choice. Unfortunately, the current sodium overconsumption among Americans has dire health consequences.

High blood pressure, the resulting heart disease, and stroke are among the health problems triggered by sodium overconsumption.

Fortunately, you can cut your daily sodium consumption by avoiding processed and restaurant foods. Cook fresh food at home with minimal or no salt whenever possible.

By doing this, you take a crucial step toward staying healthy. Besides, you’ll cut unnecessary costs in treatment for diseases related to sodium overconsumption.

References

1.Harvard T.H. Chan. Salt and Sodium, 2023. 

2.U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Sodium in Your Diet Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Reduce Your Intake, 2021 PDF.

3.Kirkland EB, Heincelman M, Bishu KG, Schumann SO, Schreiner A, Axon RN, Mauldin PD, Moran WP. Trends in Healthcare Expenditures Among US Adults With Hypertension: National Estimates, 2003-2014. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018; 30;7(11), e008731.

4.MedlinePlus. Sodium, 2023. 

5.WHO. Sodium reduction, 2023. 

6.Wang YJ, Yeh TL, Shih MC, Tu YK, Chien KL. Dietary Sodium Intake and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. Nutrients 2020; 12(10), 2934.

7.CDC. How to Reduce Sodium Intake, 2023.

8.Nguyen TM, Chow CK. Global and national high blood pressure burden and control. The Lancet; 2021, 398(10304), 932-933.
Article by
James Brown
Hello,I'm James, an editor at BeWellFinder, where I'm dedicated to sharing my expertise to provide you with valuable insights.

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