Sodium in Your Diet

Monitoring Your Sodium Intake


What is sodium and where does it come from?

Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral that our bodies require to live. Animals too require sodium to live, hence the need for salt blocks for some animals. This is also why there is naturally some sodium in meat and dairy products. Sodium has been used for centuries to preserve foods, too. Cheese is a product that contains sodium that is found naturally in milk, but also has added sodium, which plays a role both in flavor and in preservation. Fruits, vegetables, and grains, on the other hand, have little sodium naturally, only if it’s added in processing.

What are the health benefits of sodium?

Believe it or not, there are health benefits of sodium too, despite the perception of many that sodium is bad. In fact, sodium is used all over in our bodies and is even part of our bone structure. Therefore, I don’t believe that everyone should be on a low sodium diet, unless this happens naturally from eating an overall healthier, whole-foods diet rather than a diet full of processed foods. You lose sodium when you sweat, so people who work out or lift weights should eat to replace it. I do feel, though, that there are people who really should watch their sodium level.

Who should monitor their sodium intake?

Patients who have heart disease or who have had a heart attack most likely should limit their sodium intake unless their doctor says otherwise. Sodium doesn’t affect cholesterol levels but may play a role in reducing blood pressure for some people. This is called salt-sensitive hypertension, and these people should reduce their sodium intake to protect their heart. However, not all high blood pressure is caused by high sodium intake, it can also be caused by genetics or simply not getting enough other minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Why do we need to read labels for sodium content?

There is a lot of hidden sodium in processed foods, such chips and crackers, but it’s not just salty foods that are high in sodium. Many unsuspecting foods such as soups, snack foods, cheese and frozen meals can also contain a lot of sodium. A quick reading of the nutrition fact label can help you keep an eye on your sodium intake and help you eat a balanced diet overall.

Are you checking your foods for sodium levels?

If you’re not already checking food labels and wondering if you should be, check out the DASH Diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension.

Learn more about the connection between fruit and vegetable consumption and minerals in relationship to blood pressure levels at: You may be surprised what it was that lowered blood pressure better than reducing sodium intake!

Jennifer M. Wood, MS, RD

Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN is registered dietitian nutritionist and successful food and nutrition consultant in Southeastern Minnesota. As the founder of a nation-wide gourmet food company, Wood wrote Jenny’s Country Kitchen…recipes for making homemade a little easier! (2003), which is a timeless collection of make-ahead, freeze-ahead and pantry-stocking recipes and time saving tips to help busy families put nutritious food on table. Wood graduated with a pre-med bachelors degree in nutritional science in 2001, completed her dietetic internship in 2007 and went on to complete a master’s degree in food and nutrition in 2011.

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