All About Salt and Sodium
First in a series:
Salt is not the only source of sodium you should be concerned about. When the USDA minimum daily requirement for sodium was listed between 1,110 mg and 3,300 mg, many people thought the USDA was referring to only salt. The USDA's reference was to all forms of sodium. Unfortunately, there are a great number of hidden sources of sodium in packaged, canned, frozen and prepared foods as well as in dairy products. (NOTE: Your vitamins and some medications may also have sodium. A Centrum Senior or comparable vitamin contains nearly 61 mg of sodium. In our low sodium lifestyle, that can be more than 10% of a desirable daily intake.) Following are the most prevalent sources of sodium.
Commercially produced salt is 99.9% pure sodium chloride (NaCL), with 2,350 mg of sodium per level teaspoon. The old "salt mines" still provide us some of our table salt while some is also chemically produced. Sea salt is mined from the sea, but the sodium count is as high with 2,132 mg to 2,350 mg per teaspoon. Sea salt does not contain iodine. When cutting salt out of your diet, you might want to replace the iodine by taking a multi-vitamin that contains iodine or by adding a serving or two of fish to your diet each week. Check the labels of multi-vitamins to make sure enough iodine is available.
The history of salt is interesting. Some theorize that salt was as important to our history lessons as were all of man's other achievements. Napoleon for instance is credited with creating the first "canned" foods for his army, in order to keep them alive while marching on Russia, which contained a lot of salt for preservation of the food. Salt has been used for centuries to cure meat, but is no longer used for that since refrigeration replaced the need. Some religions still use salt in ceremonies as a token or recognition of past rituals. With the introduction of refrigeration, salt was no longer necessary to preserve meat.
Today, we know that some of us just can't handle huge amounts of sodium. Salt is not sodium, but has a lot of sodium in it. We must watch out for the high sodium salt brings to us in packaged, canned, frozen, commercially prepared baked goods, and in dairy products, all of which have added salt for longer shelf lives. Salt, is not necessary in the baking of breads. It is a combination of yeast, sugar and in some cases citric or other acids that cause bread goods to rise. Some refer to other chemically produced products as salt, such as Potassium Chloride and Potassium Bicarbonate products. The reference to this ingredient as "potassium salt" is misleading. Potassium added to products such as Featherweight Baking Powder and Herb-Ox broth, does not raise the level of sodium, but instead the levels of potassium. See below for Potassium, and for Iodine news from the Salt Skip program in Australia, click on Iodine.
A word about "blood sodium" when you see this on your blood chemistry forms. Blood Sodium does not indicate what we are ingesting or the sodium we are concerned about unless we get too little or far too much. The kidneys keep the blood sodium constant within narrow limits, and they do it by dumping all surplus sodium into the urine. That is why a blood test tells you nothing about your sodium intake except that you are getting enough. A 24-hour urine collection may reveal that your sodium intake is excessive and that your kidneys are doing a lot of work to get rid of it. When the kidneys want help they have the ability to raise your blood pressure 'the sodium leaves faster when they do that.
About the Author
Gazzaniga is the founder of www.megaheart.com, a website that has proved invaluable to heart, Meniere's, hypertension and other patients with maladies requiring a no salt lifestyle. He is the author of a series of No Salt, Lowest Sodium Cookbooks from St. Martin's Press.