Sodium helps regulate body water content and is involved in energy utilisation and nerve function. Most raw foods contain very small amounts of sodium chloride (salt); during the processing, preparation, preservation and serving of foods salt is sometimes added.
Sodium is a silver-white, highly reactive, alkaline, metallic element. Sodium is an electrolyte that plays a crucial role in maintaining blood pressure.
Food Sources of Sodium
Vegetables like dry lotus stems and leafy vegetables are rich in sodium, as are a variety of pulses and legumes. Fruits, fish, and meat also contain a substantial amount of sodium.
Benefits and Functions of Sodium
Controls the volume of extracellular fluid in the body;
Maintains the acid-alkali (pH) balance in the body;
Necessary to maintain electrical potentials of the nervous system - and so functioning of muscle and nerve tissues. Sodium is the most abundant cation in the extracellular fluid of the body. It acts with other electrolytes, especially potassium, in the intracellular fluid, to regulate the osmotic pressure and maintain proper water balance within the body. It is a major factor in maintaining the acid-base equilibrium, in transmitting nerve impulses, and in relaxing muscles. It is also required for glucose absorption and for the transportation of other nutrients across cell membranes .
The average intake of salt in the UK is 10.1g/day for adult men and 7.6g/day for adult women. About 20% of salt consumed is added at home during cooking and at the table. Typical intakes of sodium are higher than physiological requirements.
What are the deficiency symptoms of Sodium?
A deficiency is rare, but can easily happen with diarrhea, vomiting or excessive sweating, and a shortage may lead to nausea, dizziness, poor concentration, cramps, anorexia, confusion, dehydration, depression, and muscle weakness.
Overdosage Signs of Sodium
High salt intake have been associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), and a low salt diet may be used in the treatment of this condition. Excess sweating, eg due to exercise in a hot environment, may cause sodium depletion. Salt intakes may need to increase temporarily to replenish the loss in sweat.