What are the dangers of too much sodium? How much sodium is too much and where is hidden sodium in the diet.


Sodium is one of the key electrolytes in the body.  We need it, but too much of it (like anything) throws the system out of balance and health related concerns present.  Too much sodium can lead to the following:

  • Fluid retention, mild or severe Edema
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypernatremia (high blood sodium)
  • Renal disease (kidneys)
  • Stomach cancer

Along with fat and sugar, salt can be addictive so the other negative effect of too much salt, is that we can overeat.  Obesity can lead to diabetes, fatty liver, the diseases mentioned above and a whole host of other inflammatory conditions.


The RDI for sodium is 2300mg a day, which is a tsp of salt per day.  If you struggle with your salt intake, measure a tsp each day into a container and use pinches of it through the day, and once it's run out - that's your daily intake done.


More importantly though, we need to watch out for the hidden sodium in our food.  Hidden sodium is found in foods that come in packets, cans, jars, boxes etc.  If it is a whole food, nature has already done the hard work and balanced the nutrients out - all you need to do is prepare it and eat it.


Always read your ingredients label if you are concerned about sodium, or if your Doctor has shoved you on blood pressure meds without bothering to address your diet first.  Sodium will appear as one of the last items on the nutrition information panel.  If you see a panel with 1000mg of sodium per serve, then get that tsp of salt you put in your container and take half of it out - as that is now half a teaspoon you shouldn't be adding to your cooking if you chose to eat the high sodium food.


Too little sodium is just as dangerous.  It is an essential nutrient and regulates water balance along with electrical signalling throughout the body.  If you exercise hard or sweat a lot or if you have diarreah or other conditions where you lose a lot of water from the body, you will need to replace sodium as it gets lost along with the fluids.


I recommend choosing a salt that has minerals in it, like Himalayan Crystal Salt, Rock Salt or Natural unrefined sea salt.  Watch out for table salts that use aluminium as a free flowing agent, and don't be afraid of iodised table salt, as iodine is a key nutrient also.

Stacey Hancock
June 2011 

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