Sodium and Salt
Sodium is an
electrolyte, one of several minerals required by the body to regulate
fluids. It also plays a role in maintaining the acid-base balance
of blood, and helps nutrients cross cell membranes. During pregnancy
and lactation, a woman's sodium metabolism (utilization) is altered
by hormone activity. As a result, sodium needs are slightly higher
for women at this time in their lives.
Still, most women get plenty of sodium naturally in a typical diet
and there is rarely a need for additional salt use.
Americans typically consume 4,000-8,000 mg each day, well above
their daily needs. A goal for moderation for all adults, including
pregnancy and lactation is approximately 2,400 mg of sodium per
Sodium is found in most foods naturally in small amounts. Salt as
a seasoning or additive in foods, however, is our major dietary
source of sodium. Salt is 40% sodium. One teaspoon of table salt
contains 2,400 mg of sodium.
To moderate your sodium intake, decreasing use of processed foods
such as soups, processed meats, and canned vegetables and limiting
added salt can help. If you are unsure of the Sodium content of
a food, read the food label! The label will indicate the total mg
of Sodium per serving contained in the product. Generally, consuming
products that contain less than 400 mg of Sodium per serving should
help you moderate your sodium intake but not restrict it.
Interpreting Sodium Content of Foods
contains very small amounts of Sodium and can be consumed as
contains minimal amounts of Sodium and should not significantly
affect total sodium intake.
servings of foods high in sodium can be taken each day and still
meet the goal of an approximate 2,400 to 3,000 mg sodium diet.
contains large amounts of sodium and should be noted and limited.
Many women are casually advised by friends or family to restrict
their salt intake to prevent 'swelling' of feet and ankles. This
is not a current medical recommendation. While it is prudent to
avoid 'excess' salt use, sodium restriction should not be casually
undertaken. Edema (accumulation of fluid) in the feet and legs often
occurs during pregnancy. This is a result of increased estrogen
production and greater blood volume. Estrogen increases a mother's
ability to absorb water into connective tissue, thus fluid retention
is naturally higher. At the same time, progesterone increases the
sodium content of urine, so more sodium than usual is lost by women
during pregnancy. Therefore, despite the presence of edema, sodium
needs still increase for pregnant women.
increase in sodium requirement is not dramatic, it is important.
Restricting sodium during pregnancy can cause problems for mother
and her fetus, by disrupting this delicate fluid balance. Edema
that occurs during pregnancy is not considered harmful, unless high
blood pressure or protein loss in urine is also occurring. If your
obstetrician advises a low sodium diet, clarify with the doctor
the extent of sodium restriction and any fluid recommendation being
made to you.