What is sodium?
Sodium is an electrolyte and an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Type the word “sodium” into any search engine and you’ll be bombarded with a slew of articles warning of the dangers of consuming too much. While it’s true that high levels of sodium increase the risk of heart disease and contribute the buildup of plaque in the arteries, your body also needs sodium to function properly.
Frankly, some advice out there isn’t just fearmongering — it’s downright inaccurate. If you don’t get enough sodium in your diet, you could suffer some serious consequences. A lot of guidance on sodium only considers unhealthy sources, like fried foods and highly processed snacks. Let’s take a closer look at what sodium does for your body, how it influences your lifestyle, and how much you should consume to look and feel your best.
What does sodium do for your body?
Regulates your body’s fluid levels
Sodium is a key part of the biological process that determines how much water your body retains. It also helps regulate your blood pressure levels.
Boosts your athletic performance.
Sodium is an electrolyte. These charged minerals facilitate nerve function and muscle movement and aid in nutrient absorption. As you work out, your body loses electrolytes through sweat, which inhibits your performance and can lead to muscle cramps and spasms. Replenishing your electrolytes, including sodium, will keep you in top form so you can set a new personal best.
What are some of the myths about sodium?
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there regarding sodium, both in blog articles and even in scientific journals. Why? Largely because we’re still investigating sodium’s effects on the body. (Not to mention political bias and an array of other factors.) Let’s dive into some of the myths surrounding sodium.
One of the main myths about sodium is that increased sodium intake also increases your risk of heart disease. This one is somewhat complicated. It’s true that sodium overconsumption is linked with high blood pressure — but so is sodium underconsumption. So yes, that means that getting too little sodium in your diet also increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Sodium deficiency increases the production of an enzyme called renin. The primary function of this enzyme is to increase your blood pressure levels.
A summary of a major meta-analysis of studies on salt and heart disease risk featured in Scientific American acknowledged that “the correlation between salt intake and poor health has remained tenuous.” In simple terms, there’s not enough evidence to prove a correlation between high sodium consumption and heart disease risk. Indeed, many studies cited in that article found the exact opposite conclusion — some populations that consumed higher amounts of salt (as much as 14 g a day) actually had lower blood pressure on average.
Additionally, it’s important to take into account other factors in fatty, high-sodium foods that contribute to high blood pressure. Many fast food items are chock full of saturated fats, which raise cholesterol levels. Persistent high cholesterol also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In other words, sodium isn’t the sole culprit.
How much sodium do you need?
How much sodium should you consume? This is one of the most controversial topics in the realm of nutrition. Some sources say as little as 1,500 mg a day, while others advocate for as much as 6,000 mg a day. What’s the answer? That depends on a number of highly individual factors.
Some people are highly sensitive to salt, a phenomenon that increases with age. Conversely, some elderly people are at a greater risk of sodium deficiency. Meanwhile, sodium needs are higher for athletes as well as those who consume alcohol regularly. You lose sodium through urine and sweat while working out and drinking your favorite alcoholic beverages. Staying hydrated while also replenishing those lost electrolytes is key for achieving peak athletic performance as well as preventing hangover. Breastfeeding and menstruating women, as well as people living in tropical climates, also have higher sodium needs.
BrightFox contains a healthy, hydrating boost of sodium — 80 mg, to be exact — and none of the added sugars or artificial ingredients found in other sports drinks. That’s in addition to a nutritious package of essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium, zinc, and choline. These immune-boosting nutrients supercharge your workout by replenishing vital electrolytes, boosting your energy levels, and sharpening your focus.
What happens when you don’t get enough sodium?
As we briefly discussed earlier, sodium deficiency leads to the production of the enzyme renin, which is directly responsible for raising your blood pressure. That means that too little sodium increases your risk of heart disease.
Sodium: The bottom line
It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not when it comes to sodium, but the key takeaway is that an extra sprinkle of salt here and there to a balanced diet of whole foods isn’t harmful. In fact, your body needs sodium for optimal performance. Much of the nutrition advice out there concentrates too much on sodium, painting it as the lone contributor to heart disease while ignoring other factors.
Another often overlooked point is potassium intake. Potassium flushes excess sodium from the system, and most Americans don’t receive adequate amounts of potassium in their diet. Too little potassium paired with too much sodium creates an imbalance that has the potential to harm your overall health. BrightFox provides both potassium and sodium, as well as a mix of other vitamins and minerals, helping you maintain the balance.
At the end of the day, sodium itself isn’t the enemy. The problems lies in the types of foods consumed. Highly processed foods contain far more serious health dangers than just their sodium content, like artificial ingredients, added sugars, saturated fats, and more.