sodium during pregnancy

Sodium is an essential chemical element that helps regulate your body's temperature, pH levels, and fluid levels. Sodium is incorporated in various foods and is one of the two elements that combine to form sodium chloride (table salt). With inadequate sodium, your organs, nerves, and muscles wouldn't function in the way they should. We require it, but too much of its intake could be harmful. 


During pregnancy, as we all know, your body's blood volume and other fluid increase, and it is sodium that keeps everything balanced. Furthermore, iodine, which is added to some table salts, is vital for the development of your baby's brain and nervous system, bringing on cognitive disabilities. 


Although iodine deficiency is extremely rare in the United States, inadequate amounts of this critical mineral during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirths, or abnormal brain development.  


Sodium during pregnancy: how much to take?

Sodium is a significant chemical needed by our bodies in relatively small amounts (stipulated that there’s no considerable sweating) to maintain a balance of body fluids and maintain the smooth functioning of nerves and muscles. However, a vast majority of people in the United States are known to take way more than the recommended daily intake without even realizing it. 


On average, Americans eat about 3400 mg of salt each day, while the dietary guidelines for Americans suggest limiting sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day - that’s roughly equal to 1 teaspoon of salt. The same numbers apply even during pregnancy.


What are the common side effects of consuming too much salt during pregnancy?

The excess of everything is a sin, and the same holds true for the consumption of salt. Following are some of the potential side effects of high sodium intake during pregnancy:


  • Consuming excessive amounts of sodium may result in the loss of more calcium through urination from your body.
  • It may lead to high blood pressure or preeclampsia.
  • Increased sodium intake may lead to water retention and cause excessive swelling of the legs, feet, ankles, or face. 


Sneaky foods where salt is hiding

Some foods contain excessive amounts of sodium and can elevate the risk of various health issues during pregnancy. It includes:


  • Breakfast cereals: Do you know your favorite breakfast cereals, which taste sweeter than salty,  contain excessive amounts of salt. For example, one normal cup serving of corn flakes or oatmeal can easily pep your sodium intake by nearly 200mg.  Have you ever measured how much breakfast cereals you pour into the ball at once? If not, just try it! The chances are significant that it's more than one cup.

  • Sweetened beverages: You may be startled to discover that sodium-content could be high on sugary beverages, but sometimes it is and may lead to complications during pregnancy. Do you know about electrolytes? Electrolytes can help when you’re dehydrated. Sodium is also a type of electrolyte, and so you can expect some canned energy drinks to have substantial amounts of sodium too.

  • Bread and buns: Many pregnant women prefer to have bread or buns for breakfast, mid-morning snack, or evening snack. A single slice of bread contains about 150 mg of sodium, which may not seem much for you. But, think, when was the last time that you stopped on a single slice of bread? The next time you plan to have bread or buns, pay attention to the count and ensure you don’t go overboard with it.

  • Condiments: Most people love to have their foods with ketchup, soy sauce, or barbeque sauce. Are you one of them? If yes, think twice before using them. A single serving of tomato sauce contains 154 mg sodium, barbeque sauce has 174 mg, while soy sauce has 1005 mg of sodium.  


This information may vary a bit. However, it's important to realize that salt is not the only food item that provides you enough sodium during pregnancy. Numerous other food items are also available that incorporate considerable amounts of sodium yet are healthier to consume. Let’s have a look at some of those foods. 


Some healthier sources of sodium

As stated earlier in this post, salt is not the only way you can obtain sodium during pregnancy. Here is a list of some healthy sources of sodium:


  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Vegetables including carrots, beets, and celery
  • Fruits including cranberries and apples
  • Plain yogurt
  • Unsalted pickles and nuts


It is normal to crave some foods during pregnancy. However, you should not consume all that you want as it may be unhealthy for you and the baby. Salt cravings are also similar. Sometimes, it becomes challenging to cut back on table salt, but don’t worry; we have some tips you can consider to minimize your salt intake. Without further ado, let's discuss the same.  


How to reduce salt intake?

Reducing sodium intake can be difficult but not infeasible. Here are some tips which can help you reduce salt intake during pregnancy:


  • Always read labels of food items you wish to consume as even the sweetened snacks and beverages can contain bountiful amounts of sodium.
  • Try to eat home-cooked foods as much as possible. In this manner, you can not only make sure that you’re only eating healthy meals but also keep a close watch on your sodium intake. 
  • Prefer fresh fruits and vegetables for snacking as packaged foods may contain high amounts of sodium, which may exceed the recommended daily intake. 
  • While preparing food, use salt-free seasonings only.


What causes increased salt cravings during pregnancy?

Multiple studies suggest that increased salt cravings during pregnancy are an indication that your body is in need of more fluids to support the developing baby in your womb. Sodium content in salt helps retain the body fluids, which is the key reason why pregnant women might crave salty foods. Also, due to the increased levels of progesterone hormone and morning sickness, the mother-to-be may lose sodium through vomiting and urine and so could crave salty foods. 


How to manage your salt cravings?

It is okay and pretty normal to have salt cravings during pregnancy. However, it's advised to satisfy your cravings through healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, eggs, yogurt, etc., rather than bread, breakfast cereals, sauce, or sugary beverages. However, if you have any health conditions that require you to limit the intake of salt, you should minimize your sodium intake. You can also consult your healthcare provider and determine what your healthier eating alternatives are. 


Salt brings life to your food items, and we certainly cannot do away with it. If you are not imposing any limitations on sodium intake during pregnancy, you can enjoy various savory dishes. However, don’t go overboard with it, as higher than the recommended intake of sodium intake can increase your risk of pregnancy complications.