The Good & Bad About Sodium If Trying to Eat Healthy

A healthy tuna and vegetable salad.
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Sodium intake is linked to higher rates of hypertension, kidney and heart disease. Recent guidelines from the American Heart Association suggest everyone reduce salt intake to no more than 1,500 mg a day. The U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services advise salt intake of 2,300 mg a day for those without health risk factors. Salt has health benefits, when consumed in moderation, with negative health consequences when salt intake is excessive.

Who Should Limit Sodium Intake?

Patients with kidney disease, hypertension and congestive heart failure are advised by the USDA to limit salt intake. Sodium causes fluid retention in the body and can lead to or worsen high blood pressure in the presence of kidney dysfunction and heart failure. African Americans have a higher risk of developing kidney disease and hypertension as do adults older than age 51. The USDA guidelines apply to approximately half of the population. The other 50 percent of the American population is guided to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, the equivalent of a little less than 1 tsp.


Salt and Health

Sodium, the main constituent of salt, is vital for cellular functioning and is an electrolyte that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Maintaining balance in the diet by consuming fruits, vegetables and fresh foods reduces the need for adding salt and constitutes a healthy diet. According to Colorado State University experts, even athletes should avoid salt tablets from risk of worsening dehydration. Instead, replacing salt in the body after an intense workout is recommended by eating a healthy meal.

Sodium Depletion

Sodium depletion can occur from illness and from certain medications. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, lethargy, confusion, loss of appetite, seizures and coma. Adding extra salt to food for electrolyte replacement can upset balance in the body. When sodium imbalance occurs, replacement should be done at the hospital with intravenous fluids. Consuming the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, limiting alcohol consumption and focusing on nutrition can provide the body with the right amount of salt needed for health.


Low Sodium Diet for Healthy Individuals

A Harvard study suggested healthy individuals who consume a low-salt diet could develop insulin resistance, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The findings were published in the journal "Metabolism," on July 23, 2010. After seven days of eating a low-salt diet and then a high-salt diet, lab work was performed. A low-sodium diet was found to activate hormones that can lead to insulin resistance.