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How Much Salt is Too Much Salt

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Before we get in too deep about salt, let's understand that salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. So from a nutritional standpoint, it's more accurate to look at sodium.

Sodium is one of the minerals that our bodies need to function. However, Americans are over consuming this mineral -- nearly two times more than the recommended daily value [1]. This imbalance is linked to increased blood pressure which makes Americans more likely to end up with cardiovascular and kidney disease.

Oftentimes, Americans are eating too much sodium and not even know it. A ton of it is used to preserve and flavor packaged, processed and restaurant foods. The table salt is not to blame because it represents less than 25% of American salt consumption [2].


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So, really, how much sodium is too much?

When you look at the nutritional label of packaged products look for the word sodium. This element is measured in milligrams or mg for short. According to the Cleveland Clinic, "low sodium" food choices is quantified as 140 mg or less per serving and "no sodium" is 5 mg or less per serving [3].

ClevelandClinic_SodiumLabel_171122


As a good rule of thumb, choose foods or meals that have 140 mg or less of sodium per serving to stay within the recommened value.

 

Another way to keep track of sodium intake when referencing the label is to read the "% Daily Value". Since it's a percentage, you know that the number is out of 100.

 

In the label above, sodium is 13%. Subtract 13 from 100 and you get, 87. Translate this into 87 sodium points left to consume that day.

 

The "% Daily Value" is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Please note that for sodium, FDA recommends, 2,400 mg or less for sodium. This is 100 mg more than the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association's recommendations for people with no pre-existing conditions.

 

So, please consult with your physician to get your body's daily recommended nutritional values and adjust accordingly.

 

Let's do the math:

If you don't have an imminent appointment with your physician for your annual physical, no worries, you can still come up with a conservative range for daily sodium intake.

 

Keep in mind that you eat several times per day, so we need to do some quick math. Let's say you eat a meal, or nibble on a snack or drink beverages 6-8 times per day.

To approximate the sodium range for one day, multiply 6 by 140 mg for the low end and multiply 8 by 140 mg for the high end. The result is 840 mg to 1120 mg for the day.

As you can see, these are very conservative numbers. However, this calculation is meant to buffer the unknown sodium content.

Is this too much sodium? Well it depends on which association you want to listen to and where you are in your health journey.

 

  • For people with prehypertension and hypertension, the latest American Heart Association guideline recommends further reducing sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day [4].

  • The World Health Organization (2012 guideline) recommends no more than 2,000 mg per day [5].

  • The American Heart Association recommends that most adults should limit sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day. For adults with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, ideally no more than 1,500 mg per day [6].

  • The American Diabetes Association and recommends that people with diabetes should have no more than 2,300 mg per day [7].

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (2015-2020) also recommends that recommend limiting intake of sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day [8].



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I know this rule is easy to remember, but what if there are no nutritional labels to reference? Like in the case of cooking at home. Remind yourself that salt does not equal sodium because salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

Here is the American Heart Association's approximate amounts of sodium in a given amount of table salt:

1/8 teaspoon salt = 288 mg sodium
1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium 

Let's be honest, recipes include more salt that necessary, so I suggest being conservative with the amount. The great news is, our taste buds can be trained. Over time, using less and less salt, will be easier. If the receipe calls for onions, garlic and spices, experiment with bumping that up more for flavor.

Try my low-sodium vegan recipe for Collard Greens with Smoky Jackfruit

One last thing I want to address. There are arguments out there that sea salt has less sodium than table salt. In comparing teaspoon for teaspoon, it may appear that sea salt has more sodium because it is bigger in size therefore there’s less of it in a teaspoon that fine table salt.

However, if the size of granules were equal, both types of salt have the same amount of sodium. The only difference is, sea salt is less processed and has trace minerals that table salt does not.

References:
[1] https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/1112/tables_1-40_2011-2012.pdf

[2] https://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/how_much_sodium_should_i_eat

[3] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/your-sodium-controlled-diet

[4] https://news.heart.org/dont-just-get-your-bp-taken-make-sure-its-taken-right-way

[5] http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/77985/1/9789241504836_eng.pdf

[6] https://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/how_much_sodium_should_i_eat

[7] http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/food-tips/cutting-back-on-sodium.html

[8] https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

How do you think your sodium intake is? Please comment below.

Joyce Manalo -- Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Licenced Community Health Worker, and American Diabetes Association volunteer -- believes that living a happy and healthy life is a choice. She primarily works with advertising, healthcare and law professionals who feel the need to take better care of themselves so they can crush it at work and at home. Click here to schedule a health history session.

 

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Only your doctor can diagnose or treat a medical problem. For specific medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult your doctor.


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