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What is sodium?

Sodium is an electrolyte that helps maintain acid-base balance of the blood, helps regulate blood pressure and water balance in cells, and aids in muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. Sodium can be found in the diet from salt, which is also known as sodium chloride. Salt adds flavor to food, acts as a preservative, adds texture, and can act as a binder. However, too much salt is associated with developing high blood pressure, which may lead to heart disease and stroke. Highly processed foods such as chips and processed meats usually contain large amounts of sodium.

How much sodium per day?

The recommendation for sodium intake for the general population is less than 2,300 mg per day. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is even lower, suggesting no more than 1,500 mg per day. 

It is estimated that the average American consumes around 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is equivalent to 1.5 teaspoons of salt. Most sodium in the diet comes from highly processed foods, not necessarily the salt you add to your foods when cooking. To decrease sodium intake, read food labels to better understand how much sodium you are consuming.  

Is sodium bad for you?

Sodium has many important functions in the body, including regulating fluid balance, aiding muscle contraction and relaxation, and for nerve impulses. Our kidneys help us to handle high or low amounts of sodium from the diet. 

When sodium is consistently consumed in excess, it may have negative side effects. Consistently high sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. 

Is sodium salt?

What we know as the “salt” that we use when cooking is also called sodium chloride. Sodium and chloride are the elements that make up table salt. In scientific terms, the word salt is actually a more broad term for a molecule that has a neutral charge and it is made up of positively and negatively charged ions. Many salts may be dissolved in water, making electrolytes. 

What is sodium bicarbonate?

Sodium bicarbonate is a type of salt that is more commonly known as baking soda. It also may be found in antacids, due to its ability to help neutralize acids. As baking soda, sodium bicarbonate can be used as a leavening agent when combined with an acid. Although the names are similar, baking soda and baking powder are not the same.

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