Sodium, found in salt, is one of the most important minerals in the body. Recent evidence suggests that salt reduction has an overall negative impact on several aspects of health, for many people. These can include increased insulin resistance, increased triglyceride values, and elevated stress hormones, among others. (See study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21036373 ) Also, did you know that some serious health-related issues can arise from acute lack of sodium? These include kidney failure, loss of energy, brain swelling, confusion, heart failure, headaches, seizures, and coma.
Still, most diet-conscious Americans have heard it from one source or another: “Put down the salt shaker! Don’t salt your food! Are you trying to make your blood pressure sky-high?” According to the American Heart Association, as high as 97 percent of American children and adolescents consume too much sodium. The risks associated with too much sodium are similar to those of getting not enough: increase in blood pressure, risk of heart failure and stroke, and over time, too much sodium intake can contribute to osteoporosis. But most of the problem here is that over 80% of the salt consumed by Americans comes from fast foods and has had much of its nutrients stripped. (Not to mention the chemical additives.)
Like everything in life, it is about balance. So what is the magic amount of sodium? The Institute of Medicine’s daily recommendations are at least 1,500 milligrams. In general, the Weston Price Association agrees with this number. Based solely on experimentation with my own diet/activity levels, it seems valid. (I note that the American Heart Association, however, recommends strictly sticking to less than 1,500 mg.)
As a health-conscious individual, you may actually be ending your day in a sodium deficit. Let’s break it down by the numbers. For starters, a 45-minute workout can burn through 1,000 milligrams of sodium. This number is higher if it is hot and humid outside, as the amount of sodium lost correlates directly to the amount of sweat that leaves the body. The next issue is that, if you eat a diet low in packaged convenience foods, you probably aren’t actually getting that much salt.
Here, let me be more specific. Let’s estimate that I burned through 1,000 mg of sodium on my run this morning. Now let’s look at my diet for the day:
½ cup kale (29 mg of sodium)
½ cup black raspberries (0 mg)
3 tbsp hemp protein (0 mg)
1 tbsp hemp oil (0 mg)
4 oz grilled salmon (69 mg)
½ cucumber (2 mg)
2 oz carrots (40 mg)
5 stalks celery (9 mg)
Purple plum (0 mg)
Large tomato (6 mg)
4 oz venison (46 mg)
2 c broccoli (128 mg)
1 c strawberries (0 mg)
1 c cantaloupe (9 mg)
Daily Total: 338 mg
After you subtract the sodium lost during my workout, and factor in an average need of 1,500 mg/day, that leaves me in a deficit of approximately 2,162 mg of sodium. That leaves me severely mineral deficient! If you are a regular exerciser who eats few packaged food items, you are probably in the same boat.
So how can you add sodium back into your diet in a healthful manner? Should you pick up a Taco Bell Crunchwrap (1090 mg)? Or maybe cook up some Campbell’s Chicken Soup (1700 mg/cup)? Nope. As with fats, carbohydrates, and really anything diet-related, the quality of your sodium sources are important.
Unrefined sea salt is a naturally occurring mineral that is harvested from evaporated sea water. When it comes to salt purchasing, it is your best option! The advantage of this type of salt over table salt is that no trace minerals are lost in the process of making it. These other trace minerals contained in sea salt include: sulphur, calcium, magnesium, silicon, boron, potassium, bromine and strontium.
In case I haven’t convinced you yet, here are some other benefits of sea salt:
Salt supports hydration, especially during exercise. You have probably heard about electrolytes. Sodium is an important one of these. It is just as important as potassium.
Salt can help you better cope with stress. It can speed up cortisol clearance from the blood. This is the stress hormone, so less cortisol=less stress.
Your body needs salt to function. Sodium is essential to the body’s cellular metabolic processes. It helps regulate the fluid surrounding the cells. It also is key in the function of the cardiovascular, nervous, and digestive systems.
It tastes good! It can make foods that wouldn’t normally appeal to us sound better. Example: a heaping plate of steamed kale=pretty gross. Kale sautéed in coconut oil and salted=delicious!
So what does all of this mean for you and your diet? Well, I would encourage you to take a couple days to track your sodium intake. The warmer the weather is, the more your needs will rise. And, if you work outside in the heat, be sure to compensate specifically for your increased needs. Sodium intake isn’t anything that you need to obsess over on a daily basis, but it can be helpful to increase your sodium awareness and to grasp exactly what a beneficial amount of sodium looks like. One of my favorite sites to find information on sodium amounts in non-packaged foods is http://www.calorieking.com. They have a search engine, and a free phone app! Food info at your fingertips.
Well, I am off to soak up some sunshine and spend the rest of the day replenishing my calorie & sodium needs, my friends. Until next week!
Yours in health,