Salt vs. sodium: Why you may be consuming more than you think


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Whether you have a penchant for all things salty or never add it to your food, salt is in everyone’s diet and should be — within a specified range. According to the American Heart Association, too much sodium in your system causes your body to retain water, putting an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels.

One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium, but your body only needs 200 mg a day. This means it’s imperative to check labels and to know that sodium compound goes by many names, including: salt (sodium chloride or NaCl), monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder and disodium phosphate. The AHA recommends reducing the amount of sodium in one’s diet to less than 1,500 mg a day.

Dr. Andrew Weil, a proponent of holistic health, notes that “potassium and sodium balance each other — it is the ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet and in our systems that seems to affect blood pressure and kidney function more than sodium levels alone.”

Lastly, despite what the artisanal movement might have you believe, sea salt has no health benefits over table salt. Though they may differ in taste and/or texture, they have the same basic nutritional value. In fact, many people opt for table salt because of the added iodine, an essential nutrient that is not present in sea salt. Salt deficiency rarely poses a problem, but iodine deficiency is dangerous. Unless your doctor instructs you differently, your best bet is a light hand and optimal water intake.