What food has no sodium

1. What is sodium

Sodium is a vital quantity element and occurs naturally or through the addition of table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in almost all foods. Along with chloride and potassium, it is one of the body's most important electrolytes. Most of the sodium (approx. 90%) is found outside the cells in the body fluids (extracellular fluid). In terms of quantity, sodium is the predominant cation (Na +).


2. What does the body need sodium for?

Due to its high water-binding capacity (osmotic activity), sodium plays an important role in regulating the water balance. Sodium is also involved in the regulation of the acid-base balance and blood pressure. At the cellular level, sodium is involved in maintaining membrane potential and actively transporting molecules across the cell membrane.


3. The reference values ​​for sodium were revised in 2016 - what has changed?

The revised reference values ​​for sodium were derived on the basis of a balance study in which the sodium balance was determined at different sodium intake levels. On the basis of this balance study and the fact that the other reference values ​​for nutrient intake (with the exception of iodine and fluoride) are reached with a diet that provides 1,500 mg sodium / day, an estimate for an adequate intake of sodium of 1,500 mg / day indicated for adults. Previously, an estimate was given for a minimum intake.

The revised estimates for adequate sodium intake are age dependent. The estimated values ​​for infants are based on the sodium content of breast milk and are 130 mg / day between the ages of 0 and under 4 months and 200 mg / day between the ages of 4 and 12 months. For children and adolescents, the estimated values ​​are derived on the basis of the values ​​for adults. For 1 to under 4 year olds the estimated value is 400 mg / day and increases to 1,400 mg / day for 13 to under 15 year olds. From the age of 15 and for adults, pregnant women and breastfeeding women, the estimated value for an appropriate intake is 1,500 mg / day. (See table of reference values ​​for sodium intake).


4. How can the sodium intake in the population be determined?

There are two methods of determining sodium intake in the population. On the one hand, sodium intake can be determined based on consumption (e.g. through diet protocols). On the other hand, the sodium intake in the population can be estimated from the sodium excretion in the urine.

The determination of the sodium intake on the basis of consumption surveys provides inter alia. Due to the potential underestimation of food consumption due to the self-reports of the participants and the uncertain or missing recording of the addition / re-addition of salt - sodium is mainly supplied through table salt - only imprecise results The determination of the sodium intake via the excretion of sodium in the urine provides more precise results. It is assumed that the excretion of sodium in the urine in 24 hours is proportional to the amount of sodium consumed daily. This method is considered to be a suitable method for estimating the sodium intake in the population.


5. How high is the intake of sodium in Germany?

In the "Study on Adult Health in Germany"1 (DEGS1; 2008–2011) the sodium excretion in the urine was determined and the mean sodium intake was thus estimated. For women aged 18 to 79 years, the mean dietary sodium intake was approximately 3,310 mg / day. For men of the same age, the mean sodium intake was around 3,940 mg / day.


6. Is there a sodium deficiency in the German population?

No. In Germany, sodium is mainly (80–90%) taken in together with chloride as sodium chloride (NaCl, table salt) through food. The table salt intake is too high for the majority of the German population. As a result, the intake of sodium is also above the estimated values ​​for an adequate intake (see question 5). A sodium deficiency is therefore generally not to be expected in Germany or other industrialized countries.


7. How can a sodium deficiency occur?

One of the main causes of a sodium deficiency (hyponatremia) is an increased loss of sodium e.g. B. through excessive sweating, acute gastrointestinal inflammation or the intake of an overdose of water tablets (diuretics) with extremely high water intake. Symptoms of sodium deficiency include: Confusion, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, low blood pressure (hypotension), cardiac arrhythmias (tachycardia), convulsions and coma can occur.

Sodium deficiency due to low dietary sodium intake is not known.


8. What can cause an oversupply of sodium? What are the consequences?

An oversupply of sodium (hypernatremia) usually arises as a result of water shortage or loss due to nutritional deficiencies or illnesses. Hypernatremia is present at serum concentrations of> 145 mmol / l. The consequences of hypernatremia are thirst and, in the case of a displacement of intracellular water into the extracellular area in the brain, confusion, over-excitability, convulsions and coma.


9. Can high sodium intake have negative health consequences?

Yes. High dietary sodium intake can have negative health consequences. The risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases if a lot of sodium is taken. High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. For this reason, increased sodium intake also indirectly increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

On the other hand, hypernatremia (oversupply of sodium, see question 8) is hardly possible through the oral intake of sodium alone.


10. Which foods have a low and which high sodium content?

Low sodium foods: Vegetables, fruits, nuts (unprocessed) and generally unprocessed foods

Foods high in sodium: generally processed foods such as B. bread, cheese, sausages and canned fish

In Germany, sodium is mainly (80–90%) consumed in food together with chloride as table salt (NaCl, sodium chloride). The main source of sodium in the diet is processed foods. These have a high content of table salt, which among other things. is added in the production of food due to its flavoring and preserving properties. The FAQs on table salt contain information on table salt content for individual food groups (FAQs table salt).


1The "Study on Adult Health in Germany" (DEGS) is carried out by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). DEGS is part of the RKI's health monitoring system. With the study, the institute has been collecting nationwide data on the health of adults living in Germany since 2008.


Source: reference values ​​for nutrient intake