Sodium is a mineral that, along with chloride, forms part of table salt. Sodium is needed for the fluid balance of the body, regulates the transfer of impulses in muscle and nerve cells and plays an important role in controlling blood pressure.
Sodium is found in almost all foods and beverages. In some foods and beverages, sodium is naturally present. Sodium is an important component of table salt (sodium chloride). This is added to the diet during the manufacturing process, during preparation of the meal or at the table.
- Needed for a good fluid balance of the body.
- Plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure, along with the mineral potassium.
- Needed for the contraction of muscles.
- Needed for transferring impulses through nerves.
- Stimulates gastric acid production.
A shortage of sodium will generally not easily happen. However, if a shortage does occur, it's usually due to loss of sodium via sweat during prolonged effort. This causes symptoms of dehydration and may occur with mountaineers and athletes.
An excess of sodium puts extra strain on the kidneys and heart, so edema, kidney damage and high blood pressure can arise. Thus, too much sodium increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. An excess of sodium can also lead to osteoporosis.
- Sodium is found in almost anything we eat or drink and we should be careful not to take too much of it.
- People who have a kidney disease, should be extra careful with salt intake. Because the kidneys are already damaged, waste cannot be properly excreted from the body. Therefore, kidney patients often have a salt-restricted diet.
- The human body contains approximately 80 grams of sodium. This is mainly located in the blood and tissue fluids, thus outside the cells.