Table salt–the most common form of salt–is a combination of sodium and chloride. It’s used to preserve food and enhance flavor. It can be found in the salt shaker or in processed foods.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a limit of 1,500 milligrams a day for most adults (about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt) and no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). Most Americans eat 3400 milligrams (mg) a day– much more than the recommendation! The majority of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged foods and not from the salt shaker.
While 75% of the sodium we eat is from processed, packaged and restaurant foods, it can be helpful to understand how much sodium is in a teaspoon:
Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. The body dilutes the excess sodium in your blood by holding onto water. The increase in fluids causes high blood pressure and makes the heart pump extra hard. If the heart works too hard for too long, the blood vessels can stiffen and cause a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. Excess sodium also stresses the kidneys as they try to manage the body’s blood pressure.
The following are at a higher risk than others for developing sodium-related health issues:
The block ramen noodle packages from the grocery store actually contain TWO servings, not one. The full block with seasoning contains a whopping 1,820 mg of sodium. Still want noodles without all the sodium? Skip the seasoning packet and pair the noodles with vegetables and 1 tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce for a healthier stir-fry instead.
An entire medium 12” restaurant pizza can have 3,680 mg of sodium. If it’s cut into 8 slices, that’s 460 mg a slice! Adding cured or processed meats like pepperoni and sausage can increase the sodium even more!
How can I eat less sodium?
The body needs a small amount of sodium to function properly (less than 500 mg a day).Additionally, most table salt has been combined with iodine, a mineral that helps the body make thyroid hormones and prevents the iodine-deficiency disease, goiter. Without iodine, our thyroid grows large and doesn’t work properly. We do not make iodine in the body so we have to get it from our diet. When choosing a table salt, choose one with iodine. Processed foods like canned soups almost never contain iodized salt.
The main differences between sea salt and table salt are the cost, buyer perception of health benefit, and source of the salt. To the last point, sea salt comes from the evaporation of seawater. It undergoes little processing, which is why it holds onto those small levels of minerals. Table salt is mined from salt deposits in the earth and then ground into a soft texture. Sea salt generally does not have iodine added.