From the Relaj Blog
Salt is needed to survive, but too much salt can be dangerous. Needless to say, many of us consume far more than the recommended amount. In part, this is because salt is deceptively hidden in many seemingly innocuous foods – such as cereals and breads. In part, it’s because of our own developed craving for salty, processed foods. This article covers key things to know about salt and sodium.
Sodium to Salt Conversion
The terms “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, but have distinct differences.
Sodium is a reactive chemical element not found free in nature. You would never digest it directly. Instead, sodium is typically consumed as a component of those many foods where it is naturally present; and as a component of salt where it is separated by the body for use.
In contrast, salt is found free in nature, originating from underground deposits as well as our oceans and seas. Chemically, salt is made up of roughly 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
To convert between salt and sodium, the following formulas are used:
• Sodium to Salt: Sodium (mg) X 2.5 = Salt (mg) (divide by 1000 for grams)
• Salt to Sodium: Salt (g)/ 2.5 = Sodium (g) (multiply by 1000 for mgs)
Daily Recommendation for Sodium
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day for most people, which equates to about 1 teaspoon of salt. The limit decreases to 1,500 mg if you are an adult over age 50, or black, or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Children should also limit daily sodium to 1,500 mg.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the adult intake of sodium averages 3,455 mg, with children not far behind at 3,387 mg. These amounts significantly exceed the daily recommendation.
Too Much Salt can be Dangerous
Voluminous studies addressing the health impacts of too much salt are available – the results of which are often conflicting and confusing. Following are widely held assertions concerning the dangers of too much salt:
• Cardiovascular Disease – Salt causes your blood pressure to go up; which can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. A recent Harvard research study linked excessive salt consumption to nearly 2.3 million cardiovascular deaths worldwide in 2010. It also found that one in ten Americans die from eating too much salt.
• Calcium Depletion – Studies have shown the more salt you take in, the more calcium your body flushes out in urine. This process could reduce the calcium supply needed by your body – leading to thinner bones and osteoporosis.
• Kidney Stones – High levels of calcium in the urine can also lead to the development of kidney stones.
Too Little Salt can also be Dangerous
Too little sodium is also known to cause major health problems:
• Cardiovascular Disease – Believe it or not, a recent contradictory study found that too little sodium increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a new international study published in 2011 in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), participants with low salt intakes had higher rates of cardiovascular death and hospitalization for congestive heart failure. These findings are still being analyzed.
• Hyponatremia (Over-Hydration) – Overhydration can occur in people who drink large amounts of fluids in short periods of time (e.g., marathoners), thereby diluting the sodium in the blood. This condition can lead to swelling of the brain, and in extreme cases result in death.
Salt in Moderation is Best
There does seem to be consensus that salt is good for you in moderation, particularly if you eat the more healthy salts – such as unrefined sea salt. According to the Mayo Clinic, small amounts of sodium helps your body function properly:
• Helps to maintain the right balance of fluids in your body.
• Helps transmit nerve impulses
• Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Salt has other benefits as well. Iodized salt is one of the common sources of iodine in our diet – and is necessary to good thyroid function. Sodium also makes your vegetables taste good, which encourages you to eat more.
Do you monitor your salt intake? Do you find it difficult to meet the daily limits? Please talk to to your health provider and let them know your thoughts.
Source of Information:
1. Sodium: How to tame your salt habit now, MayoClinic.com
2. Too Much Salt Hurting Majority of Americans, WebMD.com
3. Lower Sodium and Salt: A Key to Good Health, Harvard.edu
4. 1 in 10 U.S. Deaths Blamed on Salt, WebMD.com
5. Diets High in Salt Could Deplete Calcium in the Body, ScienceDaily.com
6. Huh? Low-Salt diet ups risk of fatal heart attack?, CNN.com