10 Facts and Myths About Salt

Aug 25, 2011 10:07 am

Salt isn't as simple as you think

salt
Photo: krissen on Flickr
How much salt is too much salt? The debate continues...
 

For such a classic and ubiquitous seasoning, salt proves to be extremely confusing when it comes to your health and even your cooking. Making simple decisions about your daily sodium intake is exhausting. What really is the difference between sea salt and table salt and which is better for you? Does one have lower sodium? Should you even have any salt at all?

For the average person, trying to estimate how much sodium you’ve ingested in one day is nearly impossible. You can forget about using taste as your guide thanks to all of the hidden salt in foods as common as bread. So to help you navigate this murky territory we present you with 10 facts and myths about salt. Good luck.

1. Fact: Most people should limit their salt intake to 2,300 mg daily (approximately one teaspoon)
According to the USDA, you shouldn’t have more than 2,300 mg of salt per day or 1,500 mg per day depending on age and other characteristics.

2. Myth: Your body doesn’t need salt every day
Your body needs 200 mg of salt per day to be healthy.

3. Fact: The estimated average intake of sodium for all Americans ages 2 years and older is approximately 3,400 mg per day
Most Americans not only exceed the daily minimum sodium amount needed, they also far exceed the maximum level.

4. Myth: Sodium has no health benefits
Small doses of sodium have important health benefits for the brain and nervous system as well as the body’s ability to regulate water intake.

5. Fact: Most table salts contain additives (such as potassium iodide)
While sea salt is usually touted as the unprocessed alternative to table salt, this is not always the case. Some sea salt is also processed and contains additives. Kosher salt, on the other hand, typically does not have additives.

6. Myth: Sea salt and kosher salt are lower in sodium by weight than table salt
By weight, sea salt, kosher salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium. However, if you compare a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt to a teaspoon of table salt, the sea/kosher salts’ big crystals will be less tightly packed together and thus may add a bit less sodium to what you're cooking.

7. Fact: Americans are eating significantly more salt now than we were in the 1970s
Since the 1970’s both the amount of sodium in food and the quantity of food Americans eat daily has increased.

8. Myth: Most of our salt intake comes from cooking
The majority of the sodium consumed is from processed and restaurant foods.

9. Fact: Even foods that you might not think of as salty can greatly contribute to your daily sodium intake
For example, a typical serving of whole wheat bread has 132 mg of sodium and the average oat-bran bagel contains 532 mg of sodium.

10. Myth: There is no salt in products that claim to be sodium-free or salt-free
A product is labeled sodium-free or salt-free if it has less than 5 mg of sodium, according to federal guidelines.


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