How Sodium Benefits You
Let’s talk about one of the most misunderstood minerals: sodium! Sodium is often cast as an unhealthy nutritional demon, better reduced - or left out of our food altogether. But trust me, sodium benefits you in many ways.
You probably know by now that sodium cops a lot of bad press as most people have levels that are too high. This is due to eating mostly processed foods rather than fresh foods.
While salt (sodium + chloride) intake from processed foods is certainly problematic, sodium itself represents a vital nutrient for human health and vitality. It works together with other minerals and electrolytes to regulate fluid balance, blood pressure and nervous system function.
In fact without it, the electricity required to conduct nerve impulses couldn’t be generated - which is why it’s known as an electrolyte.
People who pursue a diet aggressively low in sodium can end up with health problems such as irregular blood pressure, muscle cramps and fatigue. (Note: a small percentage of the population experience salt sensitivity - in which increased dietary sodium may raise the pressure of the blood).
Sodium in its natural state
Like many other elements, sodium is rarely found in a pure state. It’s usually coupled with other elements such as chlorine (as in sodium chloride - otherwise known as table salt), due to its reactivity.
In fact, pure sodium combined with water creates a spectacular, explosive display as heat and hydrogen gas are released and catch fire!
Don’t worry, no need to have an explosion on your hands. Aside from table salt, sodium benefits can also be gained naturally from foods such as kelp and seaweeds, olives, pickles. Trace amounts can also be found in most vegetables.
Fun fact: sodium is a key component of MSG (or monosodium glutamate) which is made up of sodium and glutamic acid.
Sodium Benefits And Features
Sodium benefits our body in many ways. In fact it has a really important role in our bodies.
It’s required for:
✔ Generating and conducting electricity
Sodium is a vital electrolyte; a charged particle that allows your cells to send and receive signals, and your nerves to conduct electrical impulses. It works together with potassium and chloride to make electrical magic happen! The difference in concentration between potassium (inside the cell) and sodium and chloride (outside the cell) creates an electrochemical gradient across the cell membrane, known as the membrane potential.
✔ Maintaining proper blood volume and blood pressure
The amount of blood pumping around in our bodies at any given time is carefully regulated. Too much and high blood pressure results (hypertension), which is extremely damaging to the cardiovascular system. Too little and the pressure drops (hypotension), causing dizziness, poor circulation, and even coma.
Sodium is a master fluid regulator, working with the kidneys - and via other complex hormonal mechanisms - to maintain a steady pressure and blood volume (which is why high salt intake can sometimes cause fluid retention).
✔ Healthy digestion
Heard of hydrochloric acid? It’s another term for stomach acid - the substance secreted by cells in the stomach lining to breakdown and digest food, and is composed of chloride - coupled with sodium. Low intake of sodium may lower stomach acid and impair digestion. As well as that, the absorption of sodium in the intestine facilitates the uptake of other vital factors too, like amino acids, glucose and water.Other functions and benefits of sodium include:
→ Transporting carbon dioxide
→ Transporting amino acids
→ Promoting bone health
→ Maintaining the pH balance of cells and tissues
→ As an antimicrobial agent
→ For breaking down mucus
Sodium Benefits: Morning, Night, And After Exercise
If you’re a “health hacker”, you might be interested to try a small pinch of high quality salt (preferably himalayan, or sea salt) each morning with your first glass of water.
Why? It’s said that this can assist the adrenal glands with its morning demands, and also to help maintain healthy hydration in people who consume a lot of water.
Here’s another handy tip: if you’ve had a few too many drinks, a pinch or two of salt with your last 1 or 2 glasses before bed after a big night out may help to prevent or reduce the severity of a hangover.
Don’t make the same mistake many people do to make their hangover worse by drinking large amounts of water with their alcohol, but forgetting to top up their electrolyte levels before bed!
If you exercise a lot and suffer from muscle cramps, you might have heard that magnesium can help relieve the cramps. This is true and it’s commonly prescribed for this purpose - but you can also try a little bit of extra sodium.
Low sodium levels are common in active people who exercise a lot, and consume a lot of water, sweating and flushing out a lot of their electrolytes.
The recommended dosage in order to get full range of sodium benefits:
There is no established therapeutic dosage for sodium (unless a major deficiency is being corrected) and daily recommendations fall between 1600 - 2300 mg per day (equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt - remember that’s sodium AND chloride).
Both increased and decreased sodium intakes have side effects.
Elevated sodium is called hypernatremia - and usually occurs due to dehydration. This commonly affects marathon runners and endurance athletes if sodium intake (relative to fluids) is not monitored closely. Some medications alter sodium levels, too, resulting in high blood pressure, fluid retention, kidney problems and brain damage.
Sodium deficiency is called hyponatremia - a dangerous imbalance of electrolytes caused by drinking too much water, or taking diuretics. Too little sodium can result in confusion, decreased blood pressure, heart problems, vomiting and coma.
Maximising Sodium Benefits in Athletic Greens
How do we get the full array of sodium benefits in Athletic Greens? The sodium in our greens mix is in there because it occurs naturally in the fruits, vegetables and plants contained in the mix.
Sodium works well with the other electrolytes in our greens such as potassium and magnesium, helping to maintain healthy levels of hydration and an optimal environment for nervous system function.
Finally, sodium also works well with CoQ10 and Hawthorn for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Remember, a small amount of sodium in the diet from natural sources is a good thing - and certainly doesn’t need to be avoided completely as some people advocate. So enjoy your greens get the full set of sodium benefits at the same time. Win/win if you ask me!