All About Minerals

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Why sodium is good for you

Sodium, along with potassium and chloride, is an electrolyte. An electrolyte is a mineral that dissolves in water and carries an electrical charge. Since the body is mostly made up of water, electrolytes are found everywhere in the body – inside the cells, in the spaces between cells, in the blood, in lymph glands and everywhere else. Sodium has a positive charge (as does potassium, while chloride has a negative charge). Because electrolytes have electrical charges, they can move easily back and forth through cell membranes. This is important because as they move into a cell, they carry other nutrients in with them and as they move out of it, they carry out waste products and excess water.

To keep body fluid levels in balance, your cells need to have a lot of potassium inside them and a lot of sodium in the fluids outside them. To keep the balance, sodium and potassium constantly move back and forth through the cell membranes.

Sodium easily combines with other elements and is necessary to make hydrochloric acid – the powerful digestive juice inside your stomach that breaks foods down to enable it to be digested and absorbed.

All three electrolytes – sodium, potassium and chloride – keep the amount of water in the body in balance, carry impulses along the nerves, help make muscles contract and relax and keep the body from becoming too acidic or alkaline. Electrolytes are also required to carry glucose (blood sugar) and other nutrients into the cells and to carry waste products and extra water out again. Electrolytes also regulate blood pressure and heartbeat.


Important sodium facts


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Groups at risk of sodium deficiency

Generally speaking, most people will not be at a risk for sodium deficiency as there is too much salt in our diet already, but there is one group that could become slightly deficient:

People in these groups at risk of deficiency should talk to a medical professional about sodium supplements BEFORE taking them.


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Symptoms of sodium deficiency

Sodium deficiency occurs when there is less than 500mg intake of sodium per day.

Sodium deficiency rarely occurs as salt (which is made up of sodium and chloride) is added to most processed foods, plus most natural foods contain some sodium, so most people get enough sodium in their diet.

Sodium deficiency usually only occurs with excessive vomiting, diarrhoea or heat exhaustion.


Sodium and health

People who wish to take an sodium supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.


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Sodium in food

Potato chips, salted 230g 1348
Macaroni and cheese, canned 1 cup 1343
Canned, chicken noodle soup 1 cup 1106
Pretzels, salted 60g 1029
Ham 85g 1023
Corned beef hash 1 cup 1003
Corn dog 1 973
Fish sandwich with tartar sauce & cheese 1 939
Tomato juice, canned (salt added) 1 cup 877
Dill pickle 1 medium 833
Hot dog (beef) 1 458



Tomato juice, canned (no salt added) 1 cup 24.3
Carrot 1 medium 21.4
Potato chips, unsalted 230g 18.2
Fruit cocktail, canned 1 cup 14.9
Tomato 1 medium 11.1
Mango 1 medium 4.1
Orange juice (frozen) 1 cup 2.5
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 1.9
Almonds (unsalted) 1 cup 1.4
Popcorn, air-popped 1 cup 0.3
Pear, raw 1 medium 0.0
Olive oil 1 Tbsp 0.0


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Sodium recommended daily intake (RDI)

RDA lifestage age amount
  INFANTS 0-6mths
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
  CHILDREN 9-18yrs 1500mg
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 1500mg
  SENIORS 51+yrs
  PREGNANT all ages 1500mg
  LACTATING all ages 1500mg
TOLERABLE UPPER LIMIT lifestage age amounT
  INFANTS 0-12mths n/a*
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
  CHILDREN 9-13yrs
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 2300mg
  SENIORS 51+yrs
  PREGNANT all ages 2300mg
  LACTATING all ages 2300mg
Toxic Levels >18000mg (18g) a day

The tolerable upper limits should only be taken for short periods and only under medical supervision.

* The tolerable upper limit for sodium for infants aged 0-12 months has not yet been determined due to a lack of data about the adverse effects in this age group. The only source of sodium intake should be from food (breast milk and/or baby formula).


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Sodium works best with



Overdosage, toxicity and cautions for sodium

Acute (>18gm) toxicity - diarrhoea, excessive salivation, excessive thirst, exhaustion, fluid retention, hyperactivity, seizures, tremors

Chronic toxicity - anaemia, fluid retention, high blood pressure, constant and uncontrollable thirst


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Last reviewed: 1 January 2010 || Last updated: 1 January 2010




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NOTE: Mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other supplements cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of nutrient supplement.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.