Although we mainly think of sodium as table salt, sodium is actually another essential micronutrient in our diet. In addition to adding flavour to our food, acting as a stabilizer, binder and a preserving agent in food, sodium plays many roles throughout our bodies.


Role of Sodium In The Body? 

Sodium is a versatile micronutrient, acting as both a mineral and an electrolyte. Similar to potassium, sodium is required for sending nerve signals, contraction of muscle and regulation fluid, and consequently blood pressure. 


How Much Sodium Do I Need?

Most Canadians consume much more sodium than they require. Health Canada recommends healthy individuals between the ages of 9 and 50 consume 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Additionally, individuals between the ages of 51 and 70 are recommended to consume 1,300 mg daily, while individuals over the age of 70 should consume 1,200 mg daily. For a complete list of sodium requirements, check out Health Canada’s Daily Recommended Intakes.

Am I At Risk of Deficiency?

Sodium deficiency is very rare in North America, however some populations may be at an increased risk of low sodium levels including older adults.

Abnormally low levels of sodium is known as hyponatremia can be caused by excessive vomiting, diarrhea or sweating, as well as by the build up of fluid caused by some chronic conditions. Symptoms of hyponatremia include,

    • Nausea and vomiting 
    • Headaches 
    • Confusion
    • Lethargy 
    • Seizures

Can I Have Too Much Sodium? 

Yes! Although sodium is an essential nutrient in our diet, too much can have negative impacts on our health. Consuming too much sodium over long periods of time can cause an increase in blood pressure and risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Recent statistics estimate that most Canadian’s consume about 3,400 mg of sodium each day.

Additionally, high levels of sodium in the blood is known as hypernatremia. This is can cause water to move from storage in tissues throughout our body into our blood making it more dilute. The dilution of our blood can lead to the build up of fluid in the brain and lungs increasing the risk of seizures and comas and cause difficulty breathing. Other signs and symptoms of high levels of sodium include,

    • Intense thirst 
    • Kidney damage 
    • Loss of appetite 
    • Confusions

Hypernatremia is an uncommon condition that may be seen in older adults with malnutrition or with an cold or infection causing severe dehydration.

Where Can I Find Sodium? 

Unlike many micronutrients, sodium is not naturally found in many foods, but is added to many foods during cooking and processing to add flavour or increase shelf life. Some of the top food sources of sodium include,

    • Pizza and tomato sauces 
    • Cured and deli meats 
    • Burritos and tacos 
    • Savoury snacks (such as pretzels, popcorn and chips) 
    • Cheeses 

Interactions with Medications

Although sodium doesn’t interact with any medications like other micronutrients, some medications can increase your risk of hyponatremia. Some medications include,

    • ACE inhibitors 
    • Heparin 
    • Diuretics 
    • Antidepressants and antipsychotics


For more on the role of vitamin and minerals in promoting health and supporting our bodies, check out the Micronutrient Monday series.