What is Salt: Sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt. The words salt and sodium are used interchangeably. Most labels will say sodium while the packages will say for example “Low Salt”.
Why do we need salt: Sodium chloride, salt, is an essential element of life and is one of the elements that the body cannot do without. Salt must be incorporated into our daily lives. It helps to control our fluid balance and also controls the way our muscles and nerves work. Our bodies regulate how much salt, or sodium, there is at present. If sodium levels are too high we get thirsty and drink which speeds up the elimination of salt through our kidneys. Salt is used as a preservative and for its taste.
How much salt do we need per day: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2300mg or one teaspoon per day. Persons 51 years and older, and those of any age, including children, persons with diabetes or those who are of African descent should limit their sodium intake to less than 1500mg or 2/3 teaspoon per day. In Barbados this group accounts for nearly 50% of the population.
Where is the most salt found: most of the salt that we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants and sold from food-vans. Sodium that is added to processed foods cannot be removed. Below are some popular foods and their average sodium content.
When reading labels don’t only look for salt but for sodium alginate, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium benzoate, sodium caseinate, sodium chloride, sodium citrate, sodium hydroxide, sodium saccharin, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium sulfide, sodium sulfite, disodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), trisodium phosphate and sodium.
Sea Salt is processed through evaporation of ocean water or water from salt water lakes. Depending on the process some trace minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium and elements are left in the salt. These minerals add flavour and colour to the salt. Sea salt also has different levels of coarseness.
Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits. The process eliminates the elements and it usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt has iodine added to it. Iodine is an essential ingredient that helps to maintain a healthy thyroid.
Sea salt and Table salt have the same basic nutritional value and contain 40% sodium by weight.
The DASH diet: the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet emphasizes the use of vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy foods. It also recommends moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.
References: Web-MD, Medical News Today, Medscape, Livestrong, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association