Too much salt in your diet and your diet earns a bad name! Although salt sometimes receives bad press, it is important to remember its varied functions. Being an essential mineral which your body needs for good health and to function adequately the need for sodium does increase during pregnancy.
Perhaps you didn’t already know but there are many important FUNCTIONS of salt, including:
- Controlling the flow of fluids in and out of each and every body cell
- Regulating blood pressure
- Transmitting nerve impulses. Sodium, chloride and potassium are electrolytes or compounds that transmit electrical currents through the body, causing nerve impulses to also be transmitted
- Helping your muscles like your heart to relax.
- During pregnancy a certain amount of sodium is required to allow for higher fluid volume
Did you know..
- Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably but in essence they are two different things.
- Sodium is technically known as sodium chloride, an element of table salt.
- A single teaspoon of salt contains 2000mg of sodium.
- The moderate requirement for adults, including pregnant and lactating women, is about 2400mg of sodium per day.
- Neither decreasing the intake nor increasing it is recommended - most women will get adequate supply of this mineral from their regular diets.
- The clearance of salt by the kidneys is substantially increased during pregnancy - pregnant women lose more salt than non-pregnant women.
- In general when you stumble on guidelines warning you on the dangers of eating too much salt, the warning is all about limiting your sodium intake.
- If frozen convenience food is your thingy, look for products that contain less than 800mg of sodium per serving. Canned soups, most fast foods, luncheon meats and macaroni and cheese mix are some examples of foods high in sodium.
- Condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, mustard, pickles and olives can be high in sodium - go easy on these.
- In healthy normal people, the kidneys help regulate the sodium level - excess sodium is excreted from your body through urine and perspiration.
- Therefore when you eat foods high in salt, you will probably urinate more often because your body is trying to rid itself of the excess sodium. Your body will work efficiently every day at maintaining a proper balance of salt irrespective of your sodium intake.
- Using salt for taste provides sufficient dose of this mineral. Choose iodized versions as the iodine in it will be useful for the fetus (unless you are hyperthyroid and your doctor recommends that you avoid iodized salts).
A word on Edema
- Fluid Retention or Edema is a normal consequence of pregnancy and its cause is not always related to too much salt. Instead, this condition develops a lot of times because of increased estrogen and a greater blood volume. Having said this it is important that you do not decrease your sodium intake to relieve edema. Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, you should not restrict sodium. Only do so when water retention increases immediately after consuming salty foods.
- Restriction of sodium can disrupt the body's delicate fluid balance essential during pregnancy - extra fluids especially water can relieve some swelling. If the swelling is excessive consult your doctor first before you make any changes to your diet.
- Babies born to women who restrict salt may have low blood sodium at birth or hyponatremia.