Sodium is essential to life
May 2, 2011
SODIUM IS ESSENTIAL TO LIFE. Humans even have a specific sensor on the tongue that can detect salt. Thousands of years ago, when the diet of humans was potassium rich and sodium poor, this sensor for salt was a crucial survival tool. Nature devised a way to help humans seek out salty foods so they could be assured of receiving adequate sodium from their diets. This is important because sodium plays many roles in the body.
Sodium is essential for maintaining the health of every cell in the human body. It is in the fluid between cells (often called the “extracellular fluid”). Potassium exists mainly on the inside of the cells (in the “intracellular fluid”). These two minerals need to be in constant balance so nutrient and waste can take place across cell membranes. If either of these minerals is deficient or excessive, cell permeability becomes compromised and the health of all the cells suffers.
Besides being a component of extracellular fluid that bathes every living cell, sodium is important in blood and our lymphatic fluid. It is necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid, the digestive enzyme secreted by the stomach in order to digest protein. Along with potassium, sodium is required for the proper functioning of our nerves and the contraction of our muscles. The heart is the hardest working muscle. Sodium is necessary to maintain several kinds of equilibrium – fluid balance, electrolyte balance and pH (acid/alkaline) balance which are all of the utmost importance to the body.
With the many crucial roles sodium plays, if we had no sodium, we would cease to exist. Obtaining adequate, easily absorbable sodium from foods is important for maintaining health, but obtaining too much of the wrong kinds of sodium is harmful.
Like fat, sodium is often misunderstood. Sodium and fat are nutrients we need for health, but not all forms of them arc healthy.
Most of us already know that excessive salt consumption contributes to the development of high blood pressure. Recent research shows that it is also associated with strokes, calcium deficiency and osteoporosis, fluid retention, weight gain, stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. However, reducing sodium too much can be just as harmful as consuming large amounts of it. Too little can cause spasms, poor heart rhythms, increase the risk of heart attack in hypertensive patients and cause sudden death. Understanding the role sodium plays in the body and the difference between “good” and “bad” sources of sodium will help you get the salt out of your diet while you still meet your sodium needs.
Just how much salt do we consume? The average American’s salt intake is two to three teaspoons a day. This may not sound like a lot, but it provides 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium a day-which can be double the FDA’s maximum recommended daily quantity of 2,400 milligrams.
No other mammal eats this much salt and no other mammal has the health problems we do. High blood pressure, for example, was never even seen in animals until researchers introduced large amounts of salt into animals’ diets.
An easy way to begin to reduce your intake of sodium is to substitute other herbs and spices. The following recipe is one way to begin. It still contains sodium, but it also contains many other delightful flavors. Enjoy your path to better health.
Kelp Seasoning Mix
One thing that makes food taste great- salt!!! Perhaps some of you wish to completely omit the salt, but others are not ready to do that just yet!
In addition to diluting the negative effects of the salt, the other ingredients add antioxidant power to this blend. The nutritional yeast and the kelp are both extremely nutrient dense foods and are noted for their B vitamins and iodine respectively.
- Optional: 1/2 cup Sea Salt – the less refined, the better
- 1 TBSP Oregano leaf
- 1 TBSP Thyme herb
- 1 TBSP Basil leaf
- 1 TBSP Garlic
- 1 TBS) Chives
- 1 teaspoon Celery seed
- 2 TBSP Onion powder
- 2 teaspoons ground Rosemary leaf
- 1/2 cup Parsley leaf
- 1 TBSP powdered Kelp
- 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
- Mix ingredients together and store in a clean, dry jar in a cool dark place. (Play with the quantities as you wish –
- Use according to your taste preference. (I put it in a grinder so that I can use a more coarse salt in this mix).
For more nutrition and health information, contact Dr. Wendy at 231-348-0838 or firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Wendy is available for individual appointments, phone appointments, group sessions, speaking engagements and is now offering a Corporate Wellness Program.