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Sodium: what it's used for

Siski Green / 29 July 2021

Sodium is found in many things so supplements are not necessary

Differemnt types of salt
Because of the amount of salt in our diet we do not need sodium supplements

Sodium is an essential mineral and nutrient involved in regulating blood pressure and blood volume. It helps muscle and nerves work properly, and keeps water levels in the body in check.

What is sodium used for?

Sodium is used to preserve foods – salt is added to butter, used in canned foods, in ready meals and so on, to prolong shelf life – as well as to add flavour. Salt is sodium in the form of sodium chloride – you can convert sodium into salt by multiplying it by 2.4. So, 1,500 mg of sodium is equivalent to 3,600 mg of salt.

What’s the best way to take sodium?

Sodium is in all kinds of foods, so there really is no need to take a supplement. In fact, you’re only ever likely to suffer with low levels if you have diarrhoea, for example. In fact, most people need to reduce their intake as it’s found in so many food products from biscuits to bread and cereals to cheese.

While younger adults need 2.4mg (6g of salt) sodium per day, older adults need less so should aim for around 1.5mg per day.

Foods that are naturally high in sodium include anchovies, bacon, cheese, ham, olives, pickles, processed meats, soy sauce and yeast extract.

In fact, reducing your intake of sodium by reducing your intake of salt by 6g per day helps reduce your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease by between 18 and 24%. A high salt intake is also associated with more severe osteoporosis.

Where can I get sodium?

In the form of salt or sodium chloride, you’ll find it in a huge array of products – not just obviously salty foods such as crisps or pretzels, but also cereals, bread, cheese, sausages and processed foods. Around 10% of our daily intake comes from root vegetables, milk and dairy products.

What are the side effects of taking sodium?

If you ingest too much sodium via your diet you put yourself at a variety of health risks including kidney problems, high blood pressure, among other things. It can also cause bloating. It’s extremely important to ensure you’ve drunk enough liquids if your sodium intake is high as this will alleviate potential pressure on your body.

Are there any contraindications when taking sodium?

If you have high blood pressure a high intake of salt can have negative effects. If you’re advised to watch your sodium intake, you should also be aware that effervescent painkillers often contain large amounts of salt.

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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