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How Much Salt Do We Actually Need Per Day?

by | Nov 19, 2018

Table salt is an important mineral mostly composed of sodium chloride (NaCl). It is essential for health and has been used for thousands of years for food seasoning and preservation.

It is so important for our health that one of basic human tastes is saltiness.

About 40% of table salt is sodium, which is the actual essential mineral that our body needs in order to function properly.

There are so many warnings in media about reducing salt or sodium in our diet that we may easily forget that sodium is actually very important mineral for our body.

What is the Role of Sodium in Our Body?

Sodium works together with potassium to maintain normal water balance in body. This also means controlling blood volume and blood pressure.

Sodium is an electrolyte and plays an important role in nerve cell transmission and muscle contractions. Both sodium and potassium are part of unique chemical reactions that make electrical signals or nerve impulses possible in our body.

No sodium in body means death!

Salt or Sodium How Do You Know The Difference?

There are two very important facts to remember.

First: The labels on foods can be very misleading. Sometimes they mention sodium contents and other times salt contents. These two are not the same.

Second: Table salt contains roughly 40% sodium!

That means if you are looking at sodium content on a label you have to multiply that number by 2.5 to get salt content.

Table salt contains 40% sodium

If you are looking at salt content and want to know how much sodium that is, you have to divide that number by 2.5.

How Much Salt / Sodium Do We Actually Need?

It is also important to remember that our daily salt intake may greatly vary based on the type of foods we eat.

The salt that is already present in foods, is about three quarters of all the salt needs.

Only a quarter is usually the salt that we consciously add to our food. But this, again, is just a general rule and varies greatly based on the type of food we are consuming.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend that the general adult population consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily. Multiplied by 2.5x that is roughly 6g of table salt or about a teaspoon.

children 1 to 3 years 0.8g sodium a day (2g salt)
children 4 to 6 years 1.2g sodium a day (3g salt)
children 7 to 10 years 2g sodium a day (5g salt)
children 11 years and over 2.3g sodium (6g salt)

Babies don’t have fully developed kidneys yet and are not able to fully process the salt. So, usually there is no need to add salt to baby food.

If a baby is breastfed, they will get the right amount of minerals. Baby products usually contain the right combination of salt and other nutrition.

These are just general recommendations. If you have doubts or concerns consult with a medical professional.

A Reminder About Salt Content in Bread and Cereals

Bread and breakfast cereals can be very high in salt because of the way they are made. And another fact is that some people eat quite a lot of these.

An average slice of bread contains between 100 to 172 milligrams of sodium. Some brands of whole wheat bread even average up to 400mg of sodium per slice – which is breathtaking high.

Breads may contain high levels of sodium

If possible, always check the labels and try and find bread brands that are low on sodium content. We recommend 100% whole wheat breads that contain no more than 170 mg of sodium per slice.

Some research confirm that on average Americans are consuming about 3,400 milligrams and even up to 4,000 milligrams of sodium daily, which rises the health risks.

Find some additional information about key studies and research on health risks and disease related to salt and sodium in this article!

Generally, most of the extra salt comes from bread products, industrially processed, pre-prepared and fast foods.

Other Foods Super High in Salt / Sodium

Flavor-enhancing seasoning are usually high in salt.

These foods are almost always high in salt:

  • bacon
  • cheese
  • olives
  • ham
  • pickles
  • anchovies
  • prawns
  • salami
  • salted and dry-roasted nuts
  • salt fish
  • smoked meat and fish
  • yeast extract
  • stock cubes
  • gravy granules
  • almost all pre-prepared and frozen food
  • pizza
  • sauces like ketchup, mayonnaise and others
  • soups
  • some types of cheese
  • snacks

Be very careful about how much salty snacks you eat and always check labels for salt contents. Some chips, popcorn, cookies and other industrially made snacks are pure salt bombs.

Popcorn may contain extemely high amounts of sodium

Published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

A study done in Italy confirms that salty snacks are tied to higher blood pressure in youths!

Study concludes: “Sodium intake from snacks was almost half of the average daily sodium consumption and was significantly associated with blood pressure values in adolescents.”

Find related article here.

In this article I didn’t want to frighten anyone about salt consumption. Sodium is an essential mineral.

Low levels of sodium are just as dangerous as high levels of sodium in body. This article is meant to rise awareness that some foods may contain way more sodium than we generally think.

Foods high in salt usually taste very good and can be even found addictive. Food companies and fast food industry is very well aware of this. So, usually they try and find a way to put crazy amounts of sodium in their foods, without consumers noticing it.

It should be a common sense that fast foods and processed foods are usually dangerous for health.

As some saying goes: “We are what we eat.”

Being aware of how much salt you actually consume daily, may have a positive impact your health and mood. So, it is well worth the effort!

This article is just informational and is not a medical advice. If you have any concerns or doubts about your health, please consult with a doctor.

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