Understand sodium and sodium targets in the Nutrient Explorer

What it is

Sodium is an essential mineral.

What it does

Sodium and potassium are the two minerals most responsible for maintaining fluid balance and establishing and maintaining the electrochemical gradient across cell membranes.

Recommended intake

The recommended intake for sodium is 2000mg per day for most individuals, but specific individual needs can vary considerably. Sodium needs are higher for individuals who work outdoors or exercise a lot, and lose a lot of sodium in their sweat. Appropriate sodium intake targets may be lower for people with medical conditions that are sensitive to sodium (for instance, sodium-sensitive hypertension).

Likelihood of tracking completeness: Very high

Virtually all foods in the MacroFactor database contain sodium or salt information, so it should be easy to accurately track your sodium intake with consistent food logging.

For more on when you can track using branded foods versus common foods when you’re trying to accurately monitor your intake of particular nutrients, you should check out this article.

Likelihood of insufficient intake: Extremely low

Insufficient sodium intake is exceedingly rare in most developed countries.

For more on nutrients with a greater likelihood of insufficient or excessive intake, you should check out this article.

Signs of deficiency/insufficiency

The condition resulting from sodium deficiency is called hyponatremia, which can be caused by grossly insufficient sodium intake, but which is much more frequently caused by diseases, medications, or acute conditions (such as sweat loss from intense exercise) that interfere with sodium absorption or increase sodium excretion.

Mild hyponatremia can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of balance, headaches, nausea, and decreased cognition. More serious hyponatremia can cause confusion and seizures. Severe hyponatremia can cause the brain to swell, leading to a condition called hyponatremic encephalopathy, which can be fatal.

The primary risk associated with excessive sodium intake is an increase in blood pressure, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease over time.

Good sources

Few unprocessed foods are particularly high in sodium. Most of the sodium in the diet comes from added salt.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about micronutrients generally, there’s a five-part series on the MacroFactor website you might enjoy.

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