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Sodium plays an important role in maintaining the body’s hydration level. This mineral is present in the blood and the interstitial fluid that bathes cells. The kidney uses aldosterone, a hormone, to regulate sodium excretion in urine depending on intake and on sodium levels in the body. 

Roles

What does sodium do? 

  • Controls water intake and excretion at the cellular level, along with potassium;
  • Permits muscle contraction;
  • Tryearsfers information, in the form of electrical (nerve) impulses, between the brain and the body;
  • Enhances glucose and amino acid absorption in the intestines.

Needs

The average sodium intake for an adult ranges from 2,200–4,100mg/day. 

As sodium can lead to high blood pressure, most people would do well to reduce their consumption.Refined and processed foods tend to be high in sodium. 

Adequate Intake (AI)* of Sodium: 

Age
Amount/Day
Infants
0 to 6 months
120mg
7 to 12 months
370mg
Children
1 to 3 years
1000mg
4 to 8 years
1200mg
Preteens
9 to 13 years
1500mg
Teens
14 to 18 years
1500mg
Men
19 to 50 years
1500mg
50 to 70 years
1300mg
70 and up
1200mg
Women
19 to 50 years
1500mg
50 to 70 years
1300mg
70 and up
1200mg
Pregnant women
 
1500mg
Nursing mothers
 
1500mg

Source: DRI.

Sources

Salt occurs naturally in a very small number of foods, including celery and milk. Reducing salt in the diet will not interfere with the adequate intake of other nutrients. While sodium chloride is the main source of salt in the diet, other forms can be found in foods, in the form of additives (monosodium glutamate, sodium, benzoate, sodium nitrites, disodium pyrophosphate, etc.). Sodium bicarbonate and sodium citrate can be found in numerous antacids. Canned or processed food often contains significant quantities of additives containing sodium. Cold cuts and condiments are also very high in sodium-based additives. 

Food Sources for Sodium: to be Consumed in Moderation (Partial List): 

Food
Portions
Sodium
Dehydrated salted beef
100g (3.5oz)
2950mg
Table salt
5ml (1 tsp.)
2325mg
Bacon, fried
100g (3.5oz) 4 slices
2310mg
Dill Pickles
1 pickle (65g)
2013mg
Regular ham, 11% fat, sliced
100g (3.5oz)
1300mg - 1500mg
Fish sauce, ready-to-serve
15ml (1 tablespoon)
1390mg
Sodium bicarbonate
5ml (1 teaspoon)
1 259mg
Shoyu or tamari soy sauce
15ml (1 tablespoon)
902mg
Cooked legumes, canned
250ml (1 cup)
718mg – 873mg
Atlantic herring, marinated
100g (3.5oz)
871mg
Smoked salmon
100g (3.5oz)
785mg
Tomato sauce, canned
125ml (0.5 cup)
700mg
Teriyaki sauce, ready to serve
15ml (1 tbsp.)
690mg
Anchovies, canned
4 anchovies (16g)
588mg
Feta cheese
50g
560mg
Soy sauce, reduced salt
15ml (1 tbsp.)
533mg
Sardines, canned
100g (3.5oz) (8 average-sized)
505mg
Sauerkraut, canned
125ml (0.5 tasse)
500mg
Cottage cheese, 2% fat
125ml (0.5 tasse)
485mg
Tomato or vegetable juice
125ml (0.5 tasse)
345-350mg

Deficiency

Sodium deficiency is rare given the high salt content of our diet. Yet a deficiency may develop following certain health problems: 

  • Repeated vomiting;
  • Sustained diarrhea;
  • Extended illness;
  • Dehydration;
  • Excessive or constant sweating;
  • Severe kidney dysfunction;
  • Use of thiazide diuretics;
  • Acute hypoglycemia.

Signs of sodium deficiency: 

  • Headaches;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Cramps;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Dizziness;
  • Palpitations, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness (serious cases).

Adverse effects

he average sodium (salt) consumption for Canadians ranges from 2,200–4,100 mg/day. Intake in excess of 2,300 mg/day increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and kidney problems. 

Signs of excessive sodium: 

  • Hypertension;
  • Water retention;
  • Dizziness.

Cons-indications

Cautionary Measure 

  • People with high blood pressure;
  • Elderly people;
  • Diabetics;
  • People suffering from chronic kidney disease.

Interactions

Natural health products or vitamin supplements: 

  • Plants or supplements: potassium.

Drugs: 

  • Certain antacids and several other drugs that react with various types of sodium (bicarbonate, citrate

Additional information

Speak with your pharmacist if you plan to take sodium supplements. Your pharmacist can help you choose the solution that’s best for you based on your health and any drugs you take. 

Other names

Sodium, Na, Acetate, Bicarbonate, Sodium chloride, Sodium phosphate, Table salt