Our kidneys are 24:7 multitaskers. Through urine production, they filter toxins, excrete waste and balance bodily fluids. Kidneys also play a vital role in managing blood pressure levels. Finding the right balance of sodium in the body is essential for nerve and muscle function, balancing the fluids in the blood and maintaining pressure. However, not all sodium is beneficial and too much can create an imbalance that the kidneys may have trouble correcting. Let us look at different types of sodium that make their way into our diet.
1. Table Salt
Salt is a natural mineral and a healthy component to our diet. The form of salt and the amount of salt should be moderated for health. Standard table salt is typically manufactured and stripped of its natural minerals during the processing. Many salt companies also add anticaking agents that may contain ingredients such as aluminum.
It may not seem necessary but take the time to look at the ingredient list on the salt containers at the grocery store. Choose a brand that only contains “salt.” You may also want to try a superior quality Himalayan salt or Mediterranean sea salt that contains traces of other important natural minerals as well.
When we think of visiting the “Sea” we are not usually thinking of sodium. However, there are many opportunities for a healthy dose of sodium from items in the sea, other than the more well-known sea salt. Various types of seaweed such as Nori, Wakame and Kombu are natural sources of sodium that are safe but still need to be consumed in moderation. They also include nutrients to help fight inflammation and balance blood sugar with fiber. These sea vegetables have been found to help reduce the risk of kidney stones by inhibiting the formation of calcium oxalate. The frequency, type and serving size consumed may render the need for keeping a watchful eye on sodium levels, especially when combined with convenience foods.
Ancient food practices include adding salt for preservation. Many foods were actually named “salt-pork,” “salted-fish” or “salt-cured meat,” such as bacon. Salting or brining extended the shelf life of foods through the winter, sea exploration or extended travel periods before refrigeration was available.
Current food manufacturing processes still use salt for increasing convenience. New practices include excessive amounts of salt, sodium derived ingredients and chemical-based salt alternatives for convenience and flavor. It is hard to find processed or manufactured food without the addition of salt. The good news is that the food and drug administration, FDA, requires labeling of processed foods. This means that the sodium content is typically available to view and can be monitored.
Choosing packaged or processed foods that contain the words “low salt,” “reduced sodium,” or “lower sodium” can be helpful. Often, canned foods, including vegetables, contain higher levels of sodium. These items can typically be rinsed under tap water to reduce the amount of sodium consumed.
Hidden sources of sodium may be found in convenience foods, beverages, and even “sweets” – for freshness and added-flavor. Keep an eye on the labels to balance daily sodium intake to avoid overtaxing the kidneys.
4. Water Softeners
A household water softener can help to reduce the “hardness” or mineral content in the water by creating a new balance – similar to how the body balances its own fluid. The most common way to balance the minerals in household water is by adding salt through a soft water filter. Drinking tap water from a soft water filter may add 10-35 mg of sodium per eight-ounce cup. Although these levels may be considered a low-sodium food via the Food and Drug Administration, overall intake can add up with the recommended number of servings of water consumed per day based on age, gender, or health condition.
When managing health conditions such as chronic kidney disease, blood pressure or congestive heart failure, it is important to be mindful of the dietary sources of sodium and the overall amount consumed. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2300mg of sodium per day for those 14 and older. Work with your health care provider to determine an appropriate sodium level for your condition. Be sure to carefully consider some of the lesser-known types of salt you consume throughout the week to keep within a kidney-friendly range. For tips on reducing sodium, visit our blog post on ways to reduce sneaky sodium..