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Are You Getting Enough Sodium?

Sodium is crack.  It is the compound abstraction of one of the five basic flavors that people get addicted to: bitter, sweet, sour, umami, and the almighty SALTY!  Some people are addicted to pickles, others cookies, but most all of us enjoy salt on everything.  Whether it is table salt, the devilish MSG, sea salt, or natural sodium, there is no scarcity and more people are worried about HIGH levels than low levels.  High levels of sodium can cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular damage, kidney complications, bone fragility.  The sneakiest culprit is canned foods and many people are shopping for low sodium groceries every week.  But what ‘they’ don’t tell you is how important sodium is to your body.  With all the hype centered on low sodium, some are simply not getting enough sodium.

We all heard the legend about the woman that died at the water drinking contest? Turns out it is scientific fact.  Having enough sodium is equally if not more important than the dangers of high sodium. Now I wouldn’t want to scare you into a diet that puts you at risk for high blood pressure, but if you don’t get enough sodium, you could get hyponatremia or die. Hyponatremia, abridged, is basically when you have far greater water in your body than sodium, creating a serious imbalance that could even cause brain swelling.  Take it on personal experience, I’d rather have slightly high sodium levels than another bout of low sodium issues.  Symptoms included, as confirmed by LiveStrong.com, “nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches, confusion, irritability and muscle cramps or weakness. Very low levels can induce seizures, coma or death.”  But with all the hype about high sodium, there is not much information out there for how to get enough sodium if you eat fresh foods, are vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free, etc., workout, sweat a lot,  and stay hydrated, which can all contribute to a sodium imbalance.

Due to the immediacy of my issue, the first thing I tried were electrolyte tablets and Pedialyte, but personally, I hate depending on tablets/pills or any non natural form of intake.  Of course, if you do not mind drinking the liquid crap Gatorade and Vitamin Water put out, you probably do not have an issue with sodium intake.  So the next thing I needed to know was where to get natural sodium in the foods I would be willing to eat.   Here is a semi-raw/semi-vegan/gluten-free list of ways I now prevent a recurrence of hyponatremia:

1) Edamame with Sea Salt or Soy Sauce

Of course, the easiest way to increase your sodium intake is by eating more salt.  Bouillon cubes, soy sauce, and sea salt are famous for containing plenty of sodium and pack a lot of flavor.  Edamame is quick and easy to steam.

2) Olives

These salty treats also often come canned with even higher sodium levels, but are considered a healthy fat.  Great to add to sauces or salads.

3) Hearts of Palm

Hearts of palm are often pickled or canned.  The pickling process relies on brine so any pickled vegetable will add sodium to your diet without a bunch of calories or sugars if you are careful to choose healthy brands. Personally, I can mow a jar of hearts of palm in the grocery store parking lot, but pickled vegetables are also a great addition to salads.

4) Carrots

Carrots surprisingly can contain 76 mg and are easy to snack pack and eat plain.

5) Broccoli

Broccoli has about half the sodium of carrots, but still plenty high.

6) Mollusks

Of course, any salt water critter is going to contain plenty of sodium if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan.

7) Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

These can sometimes be found gluten-free.  Blue corn has plenty of naturally occurring sodium without necessarily adding gluten or any animal products or fats during their processing.  Check each brand’s package though.

Sometimes the common sense of the masses is wrong.  Well, actually it is quite often.  Think for yourself and give your body and lifestyle what YOU need. Don’t let “them” tell you what works. Don’t let ME tell you what works.

And now you have been educated…

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