Salt and Sodium- Get the Facts

Salt is just salt, right? Well, not really. Salt is a natural dietary need, but it’s something that most people eat in excess. When watching our sodium intake (salt is actually 90% of the sodium we consume), we need to remember something – salt and sodium are not the same (baking soda and monosodium glutamate are also sodium and contribute to our sodium allowance) so we need to know exactly how we are ingesting our sodium daily. Here are the facts about salt and sodium (salt is a form of sodium) so we can be better prepared to healthily consume sodium daily.

Your body needs sodium to function normally per day, but don’t break out the salt shaker. In order to have proper blood pressure, available balance of fluids in the body, and for the nerves to work the way they should, yes, your body needs sodium. But only up to about 500 mg a day to work the way it should, which equals to about a quarter teaspoon of salt. Most of us eat 1/4 teaspoon of salt in just one single meal – yikes! Too much salt is bad for the ticker!

So, where do we get all of our salt intake? Oddly enough, we get a majority of our salt (about 80%) from processed foods (already prepared) or from restaurant meals. This is a scary thought, because people trying to watch their sodium need to watch their daily intake of sodium. Only about 5% of the food we eat we salt ourselves, and from the looks of things, we don’t need that salt shaker to begin with. Be sure to always check the sodium content on your prepackaged foods so you can keep track of your daily intake.

It is recommended that the average American consume about a teaspoon of salt a day, maximum- or about 2,300 mg of sodium. But guess what? Most of us consume almost twice that amount – 3,400 mg of sodium daily. A high-sodium diet has been linked to stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack, particularly if you have a high-salt diet and are not very active. Physical activity does somewhat counteract high-salt diets, but not completely. People who are over age 50 (particularly African-American), or who have diabetes should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day or less, as they are more at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure overall.

Men on average consume more sodium than women do. The average man consumes anywhere from 3,100 mg to 4,700 mg of sodium daily, whereas women are more likely to eat less sodium. Women consume between 2,300 and 3,100 mg of sodium daily, which is still above the recommended daily amount. You can train yourself to enjoy less-salted foods, but on average it takes about 3 months to get used to less salt on your meals. This is because most of us have been used to salt since children, and have acquired a high taste for it.

Sea salt may be more expensive than table salt, but it’s not any healthier for you. Salt is salt is salt, and to your body, the sodium content is still equally as damaging whichever type of salt you choose. Both sea salt and table salt are 40% sodium, and take up a great amount of your daily sodium allowance. They may be created differently, but they both enter and damage the body in the same way. The texture is simply different. Save your money and just buy table salt.


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