Sodium, also known as salt content, is often the first thing people check when choosing their favorite food or drink. But why are people so obsessed with sodium levels? Our body needs sodium to function properly, including conducting nerve impulses, relaxing and contracting muscles, and maintaining a balance of water and minerals. Sodium is also found in the water we drink, although in trace amounts. So, is sodium really that bad?
Well, we actually only need a small amount of sodium. Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure, leading to heart disease and strokes. Excessive sodium intake can also result in calcium losses, most of which are taken from our bones.
Sodium – How much do you need, and what is considered excessive?
The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that our body only requires a very small amount of sodium to function properly, less than 500mg per day. Although there isn’t enough evidence to establish a recommended daily amount (RDA), The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that adults should limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, which is about a teaspoon of table salt.
Unfortunately, most Americans consume more sodium than the recommended maximum amount, known as Chronic Disease Risk Reduction Intake (CDRR), without even realizing it. When there is excessive sodium in the blood, the kidneys struggle to eliminate the excess, causing the body to retain water in order to dilute the sodium.
This excess fluid can lead to an increase in fluid surrounding cells, resulting in higher blood volume and more strain on the heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Additionally, there’s evidence that excessive salt consumption can damage the heart, aorta, and kidneys even without elevating blood pressure. Therefore, the damage may be occurring without you even knowing it, including the calcium loss from your bones.
The Sodium Content in Beer – Is it really high?
Fortunately, when it comes to sodium, beer is not your enemy. A regular beer contains only 10-20 milligrams of sodium per 12 oz serving. In comparison, most soft drinks have about four times that amount, with 45 milligrams or more in a similar serving of Pepsi or Root Beer.
To exceed the maximum recommended intake of 2300 mg of sodium, you would need to consume over 160 cans or bottles of beer (12 oz servings) within a 24-hour period, which is highly unlikely. Even if you are at risk of high blood pressure or heart disease and have been advised to limit your sodium intake to less than 1500 milligrams, you would still need to drink around 100 beers in 12 oz servings to exceed that number.
That being said, it’s important to remember that sodium is present in other foods you consume, especially processed and canned foods, so it can add up quickly.
Salt is the primary source of the mineral sodium in our diet. It is also known as sodium chloride because it consists of one sodium atom and one chlorine atom.
Sodium occurs naturally in certain foods and is also added during manufacturing and packaging. Even the water used in the brewing process of beers contains sodium, with many bottles of natural mineral water now labeled as “Low Sodium” for those concerned about their salt intake.
In general, about 70% of the sodium we consume comes from restaurant foods and processed salty foods. Another 15% comes from naturally occurring minerals in food, and the rest is added during cooking or at the table, such as using a salt shaker or adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) to a stir fry.
In the big picture, the sodium content in beer, at 10-20 milligrams per 12 oz serving, is negligible. Overall, drinking one or two beers a day will not cause you to exceed the recommended maximum amount of sodium.