The essential mineral sodium is as important to the body as is phosphorus, yet it is considered to be a very dangerous mineral. Sodium is also considered to be dangerous like phosphorus primarily due to the penchant for the addition of sodium based compounds to processed and manufactured foods in the modern food technology industry.
One of the main and primary role of the mineral sodium in the body is to actively "pump" out or let in fluids and nutrients in and out of the cells and through cell membranes - thus sodium is involved in cellular transportation occurring across membranes. The name "sodium pump" is often applied to the channels across which such transport occurs in the cells. The greater part of the body's total sodium content is to be found in the extra cellular fluid outside the cells. The mineral sodium is also absolutely necessary to the functioning of the cells and the body when in normal concentrations in the body. Sodium deficiency can cause several physical symptoms such as persistent headaches, severe muscular cramps, generalized weakness and the collapse of blood vessels. In general, sodium deficiencies are quite rare, as the majority of people consume many more times the required amount of sodium daily - this is about five grams what is generally seen as being more in excess.
The concentration of the mineral in the extra-cellular fluids surrounding the cells also tends to rise whenever the dietary sodium is too high. The blood pressure of the person can be significantly changed and altered by small changes in the concentration of sodium in the extra-cellular fluids. This physiological effect seems to affect some people more than others; however, a general susceptibility seems to affect all people to some degree. Clinical evidence suggests that the blood pressure raising effects of sodium can be alleviated to some degree by dietary potassium - thus potassium protects the body against the side effects of high sodium concentration.
Processed foods must be avoided from the diet - sodium content of processed and refined foods tends to be very high in general. The real danger of high sodium content foods can be found by taking a glance at the labels on the containers or packets containing the processed foods. Potassium intake is raised and sodium intake lowered by using salt substitutes containing potassium salts as part of the daily diet.
Blood pressure and blood volume in the human body is under the regulation and control of sodium, which is an essential macro-mineral. Blood pressure cannot be generated without the presence of sodium and other ions. Many foods contain high amounts of sodium - these foods include various dairy products and all kinds of vegetables. Drinking water also contains sodium salts and the mineral is found in many condiments consumed in the normal diet like soy sauce, all processed meats as well as canned soups and vegetables and refined foods.
The daily sodium consumption of the average American is increasing and becoming a problem as much of the intake -somewhere around 4,000 and 6,000 milligrams daily is not needed. Approximately 40% of table salt is sodium and a single teaspoon of this salt will contain about 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium intake levels need to be monitored as sodium can become a major dietary culprit where high blood pressure problems are concerned - thus, excess sodium levels in the body can be a major health risk.
Sodium intake levels recommended by the American Heart Association are about 1,000 milligrams or less a day for every 1,000 calories of food eaten, the sodium intake should also not exceed the 3,300 milligram daily intake limit for adults according to them.
The type of prescription drugs used and the medical conditions of the person determines the permissible sodium intake levels for any one person. A low sodium diet is also suggested for people affected by hypertension - such diets are commonly advised by doctors to people who have some type of blood pressure problem.
The product label of most marketed foods will list the actual sodium content of the food product. Sodium content generally tends to be high in all types of fast foods, in processed meats and canned vegetables and soups - lots of extra sodium are added to refined and processed foods.
A lot of sodium is typically part of the processing of foods. Sodium tends to be very high in dried sauce mixes, in boxed dinners as well as snack foods like potato chips and pretzels among other types of foods. Some of the suggestions below can help in reducing total dietary intake of sodium.
Choose not to have a salt shaker on the dining table particularly when eating a meal. Make careful choices about the kinds of foods you eat, choose fresh, frozen or canned food items that have the minimum amount of salts added as flavoring. Choose only unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils when stocking the kitchen. Homemade dishes must be cooked without salt as much as possible and should not include pre-salted high sodium canned vegetables. Try to eat only fat free and unsalted broths, bouillons or soups made from fresh ingredients. Be prepared and specific about what you want to eat whenever you dine out, and select dishes that have as little salt as possible to reduce the intake of sodium. When dining out, make a request for dishes that are prepared without the use of salt or with as little salt as possible. Try to flavor dishes using spices and herbs to enhance the taste of food instead of depending on salt as the main flavoring agent.