It’s generally known that too much salt is not good for us, but how much is not good? This and many other questions will be answered here, such as, is a low sodium diet necessary? I will also include some alternatives to salt, such as potassium salt. This is not for everybody, but some people have found it to be suitable for helping them to reduce their salt intake.
- The Connection Between Salt And Sodium
- How Much Sodium A Day Do We Need?
- How Many MG Of Sodium Per Day Do We Need?
- Things To Consider When Eating Salt
- Calculating Sodium Intake From Salt
- What Is Sodium and Why Is It Important?
- The Problem With Too Much Sodium
- Tips For Choosing Low Sodium Foods
- Sodium Health Risks
- Does Sodium Restriction Benefit Us
- How Harmful Is Sodium Really?
- The Alternative Argument About Sodium
- What Is Hyponatremia?
- How Hyponatremia Is Caused?
- Alternative Potassium Salt
- Difference Between Natural And Processed Salt
The Connection Between Salt And Sodium
When we think sodium it’s not uncommon to think about salt, but are they the same thing? The short answer is no.
That being said the relationship between sodium and salt does have some merit.
Salt is made up of two minerals which are, Sodium (Na) and Chloride (Cl).
Normal table salt (NaCl) is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
It’s important to keep in mind that we do need sodium to live despite the health risks that are attached to its over consumption (i.e. High blood pressure and others).
Astoundingly there is more than 2,200 mg of sodium in one teaspoon of salt. This is all the amount we need daily according to health professionals.
American studies show that in the average diet more than three times the recommended amount of salt is consumed, in the UK it’s about two times. This is pretty alarming as the risk is, it can lead to high blood pressure and numerous health issues.
In the UK 8.1g of salt is consumed on average which has 3.2g (3,200mg) of sodium in it. This doesn’t sound like much until you see the recommended amounts i.e. no more than 6g of salt which has 2.4g (2,400mg) of sodium.
How Much Sodium A Day Do We Need?
The amount of sodium that is recommended is between 1,500 mg and 2,400 mg a day – but generally it is advised that the less you have the better (although there is no conclusive evidence).
How Many MG Of Sodium Per Day Do We Need?
The amount of sodium in mg recommended for consumption by the major organisations ranges from 1500 to 2400 mg. You can see a list of major health organisations recommendations below:
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): 2300 mg.
- American Heart Association (AHA): 1500 mg (2).
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND): 1500 to 2300 mg.
- American Diabetes Association (ADA): 1500 to 2300 mg.
- (UK)National Health Service (NHS):2400 mg
Things To Consider When Eating Salt
Because salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chlorine. This means you can eat more salt than sodium – as much as two and an half times more, although you will have to carefully account for the amount you are consuming.
Calculating Sodium Intake From Salt
To consume 1500 mg of sodium you would have to consume 3/4 of a teaspoon a day, to get the same from salt you would need 3.75 grams.
To consume 2,300 mg of sodium you would need 1 teaspoon or 6 grams of salt a day.
One of the primary reasons why people are eating double their sodium requirement is processed foods.
What Is Sodium and Why Is It Important?
Sodium is an important electrolyte. A lot of foods have sodium in them naturally. So for the most part it will come from foods in your every day diet.
Electrolytes are small substances in the body that transform into ions and conduct electricity when immersed in solutions. There are many electrolytes in the human body and their job is to aid the cells and organs function properly, which is best achieved when there is balance in the body.
The most common electrolytes are Sodium, Potassium, Chloride and bicarbonate.
The Problem With Too Much Sodium
Sodium is certainly necessary for proper bodily functions but too much sodium will bind water in the body. The result of this is raised blood pressure, although this increase is usually mild it can cause a problem.
A raised blood pressure means your heart has to work harder to push blood around the body, this in turn means there’s increased strain on the arteries and various organs.
Tips For Choosing Low Sodium Foods
To ensure that you are eating foods with limited or no sodium here are three things which help you determine what you are eating.
(1) – When choosing food to eat processed food generally has the most sodium in it, so it’s best to eat fresh food where possible.
(2) – Check out the labels on food, this will give you the nutritional value. You should be looking for a 5% Daily Value (DV) or less if the sodium content is 20% DV or more this is too high.
(3) – Choose foods that are labelled with “reduced sodium or salt”.
Remember the body can NOT function without sodium. Period!
Sodium Health Risks
Most people are aware that a high blood pressure can be a contributing factor to many other diseases such as, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. But how is blood pressure effected by too much Sodium?
Most people thing that reducing sodium will immediately reduce blood pressure, there are controlled studies that show this is true, but only mildly.
Here are some results from a Cochrane review, which involved 34 randomized controlled trials. In the test, restriction of salt did reduce blood pressure as follows:
Individuals with elevated blood pressure: A reduction of 5.39 mm Hg systolic and 2.82 mm Hg for diastolic.
Individuals with normal blood pressure: A reduction of 2.42 mm Hg systolic and 1.00 mm Hg for diastolic.
These are some of the averages that were taken from the testing. And in other individual cases there were those that had much better results than others.
Keep in mind results from any test have a lot to do with the individual.
Does Sodium Restriction Benefit Us?
As we have seen from the results from various tests above a reduced sodium intake can lower blood pressure. The general advice from doctors is that we should be cutting back on sodium if we want to prevent serious diseases.
What you should keep in mind is that high blood pressure alone is not what causes serious disease, but it can contribute to the disease majorly.
Some of the results from studies that have monitored sodium restriction in relation to disease have shown no real effective cause by restricting sodium. This seems to be the overall opinion from many different studies regarding sodium restriction.
How Harmful Is Sodium Really?
It should be noted that the health authorities are not always right about what we should and should not consume. There past record does show mistakes, such as advising the cutting back of saturated fat, which wasn’t necessarily true. The type of fat and amounts are also factors.
The Alternative Argument About Sodium
There have been tests done regarding sodium but there is also proof that shows restricting sodium can also cause negative effects. Here are some examples and causes of low sodium.
A specific study showed that restricting sodium was found to increase LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and Triglycerides. LDL by 4.6% and triglycerides by 5.9%
Another study came back with results showing that a low sodium diet, made the subject insulin resistance, which is a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Another study based around type II Diabetes found that in patients with type II diabetes, less sodium was associated with an increased risk of death.
What Is Hyponatremia?
As explained previously sodium is is required for bodily functions such as, fluid balance, blood pressure management and the nervous system. But as explained previously not having enough sodium can be very harmful.
Hyponatraemia is caused by having a low level of sodium or salt in the blood.
The symptoms of this condition can vary from a change in a person’s mental state, headaches, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscle spasms and seizures.
One of the causes of Hyponatremia can be drinking too much water, this is most likely after strenuous exercise, if there isn’t adequate replacement of sodium.
It may also be cause if there is a loss of bodily fluid.
The most severe cases of hyponatremia can be fatal or cause coma.
If a person does unfortunately get hyponatremia the most common way to treat it is intravenously with fluids and electrolyte replacement.
How Hyponatremia Is Caused?
When sodium is low in the blood, this can sometimes lead to excess fluid in the body, which dilutes the sodium in your body.
This may occur when;
There is a kidney failure, where excess fluid is not being excreted properly.
Congestive heart failure, where more fluid than is needed accumulates in the body.
A person has SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone) this disease causes the body to produces too much anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which makes the body hold in water.
Here are some of the things that can cause low sodium levels:
- Large burns that affect a large area of the body
- Diuretic medicines, which increase urine output
- Heart failure
- Kidney diseases
- Liver cirrhosis
- Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH)
Alternative Potassium Salt
There are those that use potassium salt as an alternative to regular salt. It is made up of sodium and potassium chloride.
A popular potassium salt is Lo Salt. A potassium salt has less sodium in it. Upto 70 percent less than table salt.
The benefits of potassium salt is that it carries a lower risk than sodium based salts and it has benefits to your blood pressure.
Potassium salt is a good salt substitute or alternative for people that crave salt, according to those that have used it.
There are those that don’t like Potassium salt however, because they say it has a metallic after taste.
For those that have kidney disease or diabetes, it’s advised that they get medical advice, if you’re thinking about using potassium salts, because potassium is not necessarily advisable with these conditions.
The Difference Between Natural And Processed Salt
Salts that are natural and unprocessed, like sea salt and Himalayan salt have a lower make up of sodium. It has 84 percent sodium.
Processed salt such as table salt has a higher percentage of sodium i.e. 97.5 percent. The rest of its make up are man made chemicals like, moisture absorbents and flow agents, such as ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate.
The first thing you should be aware of is that it’s not just restricting sodium that can affect blood pressure. There are a number of factors that can contribute to health issues such as high blood pressure.
Although the health industry has guidelines about sodium, it’s not necessary to be overly fussy with the exact amount of sodium that is recommended for daily consumption.
It is however important to have some idea of what you’re eating, mainly because of the fast food culture that is prevalent today. There are lots of products that have way more unnecessary ingredients than we would all like to admit.
There is evidence to show that sodium can effect health, but to concentrate on it as a problem solely by its self would be an over reaction. A balanced healthy diet should be the main focus.
The problems of having to little sodium in your diet is as bad as having too much. So the main thing is that you don’t eat excessive junk food or add excessive salt to your food.