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Sodium

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.

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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.

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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.

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Comments

From Dr. Bill
Pass the salt! Pass the salt!
Where would I be without the efforts of the loony so-called "health organizations" in this country? One thing's for sure: I'd have a lot less to write about. This time, it's an organization known as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) who went before the FDA to try and get the U.S. government to put strict limits on an essential nutrient that's critical to your good heath: salt.
What's next? Limiting the amount of oxygen we breathe?
Salt has long been a favorite whipping boy of the nation's health industry, and to their credit they've done an excellent job of foisting their anti-salt, anti-sodium agenda on the public. In fact, the lie that salt is bad for you has achieved "common knowledge" status among the misled public. Go ahead and ask anyone you know, "Is salt good for your health?" and I'll bet that 10 out of 10 of the people you ask will tell you with complete and utter certainty that the answer is, undoubtedly, "no."
You'd never know it from reading the mainstream press, but salt's role in the many ailments for which it's commonly blamed is highly controversial within the medical community. In spite of what you hear on TV and read in magazines, there's actually NO AGREEMENT in the medical community that salt is the key factor in the development of such dangerous maladies as high blood pressure and hypertension!
Regardless of this fact, the whack-jobs at organizations like the CSPI can boldly park themselves in the lobby of the FDA and make the outrageous demand that the government change salt's status as a food additive from "generally accepted as safe." The CSPI would prefer that salt be a controlled substance, as though it were a drug.
Sadly, CSPI isn't alone in its wackiness. They were joined by my misguided colleagues in the American Medical Association (AMA), whose anti-salt ranting reached a fever pitch. During this public meeting, the AMA's vice president for science, quality, and public health said, "The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption represent a huge toll - the equivalent of a jumbo jet with 400 passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year."
Allow me to pause for a moment and wipe off the hyperbole.
A slightly less manic statistic put forward at the meeting by the AMA was the absurd claim that 150,000 U.S. deaths could be prevented every year by the simple expedient of halving the amount of salt contained in American food products.
But there are some other pertinent statistics about salt that the CSPI and the AMA failed to put forward at the meeting, like how many lives are SAVED by salt every year.
Yes, SAVED by salt. Are you ready for me to skewer another popular sacred cow?
Lost in all the clamor from "public health" know-nothings is the cold, hard fact that without salt, you'd die. That's right: Salt keeps you alive. It's an essential nutrient THAT THE HUMAN BODY CANNOT MANUFACTURE ON ITS OWN. Salt plays a critical role in regulating vital bodily function, and is a key element in the fluids that transport life-giving oxygen throughout the body. Salt maintains the body's fluid balance.
Here's another salt truism you'll never hear from the experts at CSPI: The body AUTOMATICALLY disposes of excess salt in your system. So you can ignore the popular claim that your diet can put "too much salt" in your body. That's just not physically possible.
The alleged benefits of a low-sodium diet is another lie. Remember how I told you earlier that salt is routinely blamed for high blood pressure? Well, some studies have shown that A LOW-SODIUM DIET CAN ACTUALLY CAUSE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. The reason for this goes back to the body's need for salt. If you zealously avoid salt and sodium, your kidneys will go into overdrive to conserve the precious salt in your system. This triggers the body's back-up system to try to compensate for the absence of salt, which spikes blood pressure. Sodium deficiencies have also been linked to memory loss and even Alzheimer's disease.
I could go on. But you know where I'm going. Don't let the anti-salt panic mongers goad you into throwing out your saltshaker. Sit back, relax, and know that a couple of shakes on your bucket of popcorn will not only make it a lot tastier it will also help keep you alive longer.
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