Salt in Your Diet

February 11, 2017

Are you conscious about the amount of salt (aka sodium chloride) you eat? Are you certain the amount of salt you eat is appropriate for your body?

You may be surprised to find out you consume more salt than you think.

You may not use salt at all, and you still may be consuming too much of it if you eat a lot of prepared and processed foods. As a matter of fact, the sodium in most people’s diets in the United States comes from processed and prepared foods found in restaurants and grocery stores.

Now, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to restrict the amount of sodium added to foods. A draft guidance for industry has been released by the FDA with the intent to have industries decrease the amount of sodium added to prepared and processed foods. The restriction concerns the amount of salt added to your foods before by the restaurants and manufacturers before you even get a chance to season them yourself.

The objective of the FDA is to have people decrease their daily salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day, which is the equivalent to a teaspoon of salt. Right now, Americans consume about 50% more than what’s recommended for a daily allowance.

The Problem with Excess Sodium Consumption

The terms salt and sodium may be used as synonyms, but they are not identical substances. Salt is the crystal-like substance you sprinkle over your food and is 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Sodium is a mineral found in salt, but salt is the primary form that you consume sodium. Almost 95% of the sodium consumed–whether added by you or added by the manufacturer comes in salt form.

The body needs sodium to assist in doing its daily functions, and sodium can be found naturally in a lot of foods (including milk, beets and celery). Regardless of which form it’s in, sodium is also used to improve flavor, thicken foods and preserve foods.

The downside of sodium is the potential for it to cause high blood pressure, which is a precursor to heart disease and stroke. Therefore, a lot of deaths and sickness can be eliminated just by decreasing sodium intake.  

What Foods Are Typically High in Sodium?

Prepared and processed foods like soups, cheese, pizza, pasta dishes, snacks, sandwiches and salad dressings are rich in sodium.

You can’t assume a food has little sodium just because you can’t hardly taste any salt in it. That’s because most foods high in sodium won’t taste salty like pickles do. For example, pastries and sweet cereals are high in sodium but don’t taste salty. Also, some foods are low in sodium but may be consumed in quantities that make them a risky source of sodium (like a slice of bread).