The Salty Truth: Why Sodium Matters More Than You Think

Author - Ms. Jinu Prasad


Salt contains the essential mineral Sodium. Although the daily Sodium requirement is low (about 200 – 300 mg/day), the average diet in industrialized countries contains 4 – 6 g of sodium, about twenty times the daily requirement. In about one-third of adult high intakes of sodium (especially when combined with low intakes of potassium and calcium) increase blood pressure. Excess sodium intake also increases urinary calcium excretion and may increase the risk of osteoporosis.


What are the functions of Sodium Chloride?

  • It regulates the acid-base balance of the body
  • It maintains fluid balance and normal osmotic pressure between intracellular and extracellular compartments.
  • Sodium Ions play a special role in originating and maintaining a heartbeat
  • It maintains normal irritability of nerves and helps in muscle contraction


Where does all the extra sodium come from?

Less than 10% comes from the natural sodium content of food; about 75 % comes from salt that has been added during production and processing, and only about 15% is added during cooking or at the table. Natural, fresh foods are typically very low in sodium and have a healthy ratio of sodium to potassium.

In contrast, cheese, processed meats (such as sausages), salty snacks like crackers, nuts, chips, canned vegetables, frozen food products, baked foods, stabilizing agents, preservatives, sauces and soups contain high amounts.


The top 10 food sources of sodium in food and our diet are:

  • Bread/Rolls
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Cold cuts, luncheon, and cured meats
  • Soups
  • Burritos/Tacos
  • Savory snacks (chips, crackers, pretzels, popcorn, snack mixes)
  • Poultry
  • Cheese
  • Egg Dishes/Omelets


What are the Benefits of Cutting Sodium?

Eating less Sodium can reduce your risk for high blood pressure, fluid retention, heart disease, stroke, kidney issues, osteoporosis and cancer.


What are the FDA Sodium Targets?

The Daily Value for Sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.


Watch for these Ingredients that are high in Sodium

  • Onion Salt
  • Garlic Salt
  • Celery Salt
  • Soy Sauce
  • Mono Sodium Glutamate
  • Brine
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Sodium Nitrate
  • Sodium Saccahrin



Myth:-Eliminate Sodium completely for good health

Fact:- Sodium is an essential nutrient that controls blood pressure and is needed to make nerves and muscles work properly, but you need the right amount.


Myth:-Low Sodium foods are tasteless/no taste

Fact:- Experiment with spices, herbs, and citrus to enhance the natural flavor of your food. There is a rich world of creative and flavorful alternatives to salt.


Myth:-I usually don't add salt in my food, so I won't eat so much Sodium

Fact:- More than 75 % of Sodium is estimated to come from processed foods and not the salt shaker.It is very important to read and compare the Nutritional Facts Labels and Serving sizes.


Myth:-I don't eat a lot of salty foods, so I don't eat too much Sodium

Fact:- Watch out for Poultry, Cheese, Bread, Sauces, Preserves, Canned foods, Processed foods, Ready to prepare food mixes. These foods can have excess sodium that can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.


Tips to Cut down Sodium in the Diet

  • Read the Food Label – the amount listed is for one serving
  • Get rid of the Salt Shaker and use less salt in cooking
  • Choose carefully when you eat away from home. 
  • Order baked, broiled, steamed, or poached foods without bread and sauces
  • Ask for sauces and dressings on the side
  • Many restaurants have special menus or will make food with less salt.
  • Skip the pickles, pappads, and high-salt condiments
  • Prefer Home Cooked Meals.



Harvard Health

American Heart Association (AHA)

Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition

Read More

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