Sodium in Your Food

The element sodium, at least in its ionic form as Na cation, is a necessary nutrient for humans to live. In fact, the human body is appr...


The element sodium, at least in its ionic form as Na cation, is a necessary nutrient for humans to live. In fact, the human body is approximately 0.15% sodium, with the average person having one-twentieth to one-tenth of a kilogram in their body at any given time, mostly in fluids outside cells and in other bodily fluids.
Sodium is also present in our diet. The common table salt we use on our foods is an ionic sodium compound. Many processed foods also contain significant amounts of sodium added to them as a variety of ionic compounds. Why are sodium compounds used so much? Usually sodium compounds are inexpensive, but, more importantly, most ionic sodium compounds dissolve easily. This allows processed food manufacturers to add sodium-containing substances to food mixtures and know that the compound will dissolve and distribute evenly throughout the food. Simple ionic compounds such as sodium nitrite (NaNO2) are added to cured meats, such as bacon and deli-style meats, while a compound called sodium benzoate is added to many packaged foods as a preservative. 

Table 3.8 "Some Sodium Compounds Added to Food" is a partial list of some sodium additives used in food. Some of them you may recognize after reading this chapter. Others you may not recognize, but they are all ionic sodium compounds with some negatively charged ion also present.
Sodium in Your Food
Sodium in Your Food

Table 3.8 Some Sodium Compounds Added to Food

Sodium Compound
Use in Food
Sodium acetate
preservative, acidity regulator
Sodium adipate
food acid
Sodium alginate
thickener, vegetable gum, stabilizer, gelling agent, emulsifier
Sodium aluminum phosphate
acidity regulator, emulsifier
Sodium aluminosilicate
anticaking agent
Sodium ascorbate
antioxidant
Sodium benzoate
preservative
Sodium bicarbonate
mineral salt
Sodium bisulfite
preservative, antioxidant
Sodium carbonate
mineral salt
Sodium carboxymethylcellulose
emulsifier
Sodium citrates
food acid
Sodium dehydroacetate
preservative
Sodium erythorbate
antioxidant
Sodium erythorbin
antioxidant
Sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate
preservative
Sodium ferrocyanide
anticaking agent
Sodium formate
preservative
Sodium fumarate
food acid
Sodium gluconate
stabilizer
Sodium hydrogen acetate
preservative, acidity regulator
Sodium hydroxide
mineral salt
Sodium lactate
food acid
Sodium malate
food acid
Sodium metabisulfite
preservative, antioxidant, bleaching agent
Sodium methyl para-hydroxybenzoate
preservative
Sodium nitrate
preservative, color fixative
Sodium nitrite
preservative, color fixative
Sodium orthophenyl phenol
preservative
Sodium propionate
preservative
Sodium propyl para-hydroxybenzoate
preservative
Sodium sorbate
preservative
Sodium stearoyl lactylate
emulsifier
Sodium succinates
acidity regulator, flavor enhancer
Sodium salts of fatty acids
emulsifier, stabilizer, anticaking agent
Sodium sulfite
mineral salt, preservative, antioxidant
Sodium sulfite
preservative, antioxidant
Sodium tartrate
food acid
Sodium tetraborate
preservative


The use of so many sodium compounds in prepared and processed foods has alarmed some physicians and nutritionists. They argue that the average person consumes too much sodium from his or her diet. The average person needs only about 500 mg of sodium every day; most people consume more than this—up to 10 times as much. Some studies have implicated increased sodium intake with high blood pressure; newer studies suggest that the link is questionable. However, there has been a push to reduce the amount of sodium most people ingest every day: avoid processed and manufactured foods, read labels on packaged foods (which include an indication of the sodium content), don’t oversalt foods, and use other herbs and spices besides salt in cooking.Food labels include the amount of sodium per serving. This particular label shows that there are 75 mg of sodium in one serving of this particular food item.

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Advanced Chemistry: Sodium in Your Food
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