KC Parent Magazine – July 2012 issue
What Does Sodium Do?
Sodium is like a magnet to water in our bodies. It draws the fluid into the bloodstream, which is helpful because 60 percent of the human body consists of water. However, if too much sodium is consumed, the body fluid becomes imbalanced, which in some children and adults may contribute to high blood pressure.
The reverse of sodium is potassium, and the two work directly together. These minerals need to be proportionately balanced to keep the “machine” running effectively. So if the fuel parents allow into kids’ mouths is laden with salt and they are not getting enough potassium-rich foods to counteract this, the body can get unbalanced, adding stress to the cardiovascular system. This is not true for all children, but a combination of this with genetics, weight and a high resting heart rate can predict future problems.
According to the American Heart Association, “97 percent of children and adolescents eat too much salt, putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular diseases as they get older.”
Making a Change
- The average daily sodium requirement ranges from 1,200 mg for 4- to 8-year-old children to 1,500 mg for 9- to 18-year-olds.
- Try to cook more at home.
- When available, choose fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Limit the amount of processed foods you eat.
- Avoid adding salt when cooking and/or eating.
- Learn to cook with spices, herbs or fruit to enhance the taste of your food.
Low Sodium Foods mg
Fresh/frozen vegetables, without salt, 1/2 cup 1-70
Canned vegetables, 1/2 cup 140-460
Processed cheeses, 1 oz. 300
Fresh meat, fish, poultry, 3 oz. 30-90
Tuna canned, water pack, 3 oz. 230-350
Ham, lean, roasted, 3 oz. 1,020
Potassium Rich Foods mg
Banana, 1 medium 420
Apricots, 1/4 cup 380
Cantaloupe chunks, 1/2 cup 214
Potato, 1 medium 926
Sweet Potato, 1 medium 540
Cooked soybeans, 1/2 cup 440
Milk, 1 cup 380
(Source: National Institutes of Health, 2010)
1/4 teaspoon salt = 600 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,200 mg sodium
3/4 teaspoon salt =1,800 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
1 teaspoon baking soda 1,000 mg sodium
Stacey Hatton is a pediatric RN and a salty freelance writer.