Sunday, September 26, 2010

The sodium connection

In the past some nations went to war for salt and where it was scarce it was used for money. In Greece a hard working slave was said to be "worth his weight in salt." In Rome a portion of a legionnaire's monthly wage was paid in bricks of salt and the word salary is derived from the Latin word salarium or salt money. Salt or sodium performs many functions in our body:

1. It regulates the amount of water in our body governing the passage of fluids in and out of the cells and helping the cell membranes remain elastic.
2. Salt is needed in the digestive system for metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins and by the nervous system to aid in the transmission of nerve impulses.
3. Sodium also interferes with regulating the electrolytes into cells.
4. It helps maintain the electrolyte balance of the body also helps in muscle contraction.

Table salt is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. If you eat 10 grams of table salt 4 grams(g) are sodium. A large amount of sodium leads to high blood pressure. One gram of sodium is less than a teaspoon and more than meets the daily requirement. The average American eats 8 to 12 grams a day. Often the excessive salt is passed out of the body by the kidneys but in 30 to 50 % of the people the kidneys can't keep up. If the sodium builds up in the blood water will also build up restricting blood flow and high blood pressure results. As we grow older our kidneys become even less efficient.

Many manufacturers of foods add salt as a preservative to add shelf life. Many doctors believe that 77 % of the salt in our bodies comes from commercial additives (ca).

Some examples of ca are:

1. Food additives -
a. Soft drinks - sodium cyclamate
b. Preserved fruits - sodium sulfite
c. Desserts - Sodium citrate
d. Antimold in cheese - Sodium propionate
e. Meats - Sodium nitrate
f. Sweetener - sodium saccharin
g. Ice cream - sodium caseinate
h. Skin softener - sodium hydroxide
i. Condiments, dressings - sodium benzoate

2. MSG - monosodium glutamate - flavoring and tenderizer

3. Dry skim milk - heavy in salt

4. Baking powder - kitchen favorite

5. Brine - pickles, olives, feta cheese, corned beef

So the secret is to avoid the salt in prepared foods.

Lets look at a few samples:

Clif Bars

The average clif bar contains 130 mg (milligrams) of sodium and 310 mg of potassium. Potassium can act as a substitute for salt but does not increase the amount of water in the blood. A good ratio of sodium to potassium is 1 to 3.

Organic Trek Mix
Sodium is 0 mg.

Most prepackaged backpacking foods are very high in sodium. Many hikers eat the whole pack but you must remember it contains 2 helping and twice the listed sodium per helping. Try to prepackage the pouch into 2 separate bags and only eat the meals that are around 800 to 900 mg.

Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are very high in sodium if you add the flavor cube provided in the package. Instead add a low sodium bullion cube.

I have tried to give you some information on sodium, extend your hiking years by staying away from sodium.