Seems like simple advice; so why do so many people suffer the health consequences of excessive sodium consumption? These days, a major culprit isn’t what we sprinkle on our foods—it’s the food itself.
The fast and processed food industries offer a staggering variety of sodium-laden foods, many of which make a huge dent in your recommended daily allowance for sodium in a single serving. Example: Look closely at canned soup labels; many soups contain 2,000 mg or more of sodium per can– more than 80 percent of your RDA.
Sodium plays an important role in the body in the proper amounts– it helps maintain fluid balance, transmit nerve impulses, and influence muscle contraction and relaxation—but too much can be a big problem. Sodium attracts and retains water; too much sodium will accumulate in the blood, increasing blood volume. The heart has to work harder to pump that blood, increasing arterial pressure. Chronic fluid retention and increased blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke and congestive heart failure. We consume so much sodium on a daily basis that the kidneys can’t always eliminate enough.
Potassium and sodium work together in the body to maintain cellular fluid balance. Cells actually have a sodium-potassium “pump” that helps facilitate this balance; by pumping sodium ions out of the cell in exchange for potassium ions, sodium is removed from the cell. Because sodium and potassium have this vital balancing function on a cellular level, getting the right amounts of both in your diet is equally vital. That means limiting your sodium intake while ensuring you don’t ignore potassium. The RDA for potassium is currently 4,700 mg. Ideal food sources include bananas, citrus juices, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, and lima beans. For most people, there is a need to get more potassium into their diet and decrease the intake of sodium.