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Is Salt Essential?

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. Everyone needs salt for fluid balance, as well as muscle and nerve functions.  Salt is an essential nutrient that the body is unable to produce by itself. The human body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly. Sodium is just one of the electrolytes needed for the body to function normally and help maintain fluid and blood volume. However, by consuming too much salt, it can become a risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney problems, according to the American Heart Association.[1]  So how much do we really need?

Medical professionals have been telling us for decades to cut back on sodium usage. The experts recommend that adults take in less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day.[2]  That is the equivalent of about a teaspoon or 6 grams of salt. However, roughly 90% of adults are consuming 9 grams a day or more.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states over 70% of salt intake comes from packaged and prepared foods – not from salt added to foods when cooking or eating.[3]  Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods from stores, restaurants, and dining halls. Fast food, cold cuts, and canned foods tend to be loaded with salt. We can’t rule out the breads, pizza, cereals, and chips.

What can we eat to lower our salt intake?

• Eat mostly fresh foods instead of processed

• Look for labels that say ‘no added salt’, or ‘low salt’, or ‘salt reduced’

• Flavor recipes with herbs and spices

• Avoid adding salt at the table

Keep in mind that sodium is just one of many factors that influence blood pressure and cardiovascular health. For the greatest gains, focus on healthy eating, exercise, weight control, and stress reduction.

[1] Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt. Retrieved Sept 02, 2020.

[2] Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, et al. Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(3):647-657. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.034413

[3] Sodium in Your Diet. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


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