Salt and Diet


What is salt?

It is a crystalline compound sodium chloride (NaCl) that consists of sodium chloride, is abundant in nature, and is used especially to season or preserve food or in industry. It is also known as common salt.

salt and diet

Salt and sodium

Sodium is a component of salt but they are not the same. Salt contains 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Our body cannot produce sodium on its own so we need to get it from our foods and drinks, but the truth is we don’t need very much of it each day. Sometimes food labels mentions only quantity of sodium in place of salt. You can calculate amount of salt, which is 2.5 times sodium.

Measurement of sodium and salt

  • 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

What sodium does to our body?

Sodium is essential to our body to function properly, it along with other electrolyte minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium help in maintaining fluid balance in our body. It supports transmission of nerve impulses that make our muscles contract and detract.

But when sodium levels are too high in our body, kidney releases more water, which increases blood volume. With more blood flowing through the body, pressure increases. Over time, a sustained pressure increase causes the heart to work harder to pump blood and threatens the stability of blood vessels, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Recommended Dietary Allowance of sodium

The most common cause of sodium deficit is acute diarrhea. The other disease, where it has a vital role to play, is hypertension. The minimum requirement for a healthy person is 500 mg of sodium for adults and for infants and children, 58mg/day. The maximum daily intake of sodium chloride should not exceed 5 g per day.

Group Sodium mg/day Pottasium mg/day
Adults Men 2092 3750
Women 1902 3225
Infants 0-6 months 407 628
Children 1-3 yrs 589 1100
4-6 yrs 1005 1550
The recent WHO Consultation on Global Strategy recommends 5 g of salt /day to prevent chronic diseases particularly, hypertension, which is a major problem in India.

Indians consume about 3.7 grams of sodium, corresponding to about 9.3 grams of salt per day. This is near twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

For normal adult 2.3gm per day, sodium is advisable, whereas for an individual with hypertension it is recommended to intake 1.5gm sodium per day. Depending on the age, the amount of salt intake should be reduced.

The reason behind mentioning potassium in the above table is Potassium is a chemical which helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt. Your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body. The more fluid, the higher your blood pressure.

Foods with more salt and sodium

  • Processed cheese
  • Salty snacks
  • Condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, tomato sauce etc.
  • Soups
  • Pickles
  • Frozen meat
Don’t forget to check the nutrition labels on prepared and packaged foods, because up to 75 percent of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods. Watch for the words “soda” and “sodium” and the symbol “Na” on labels, which mean sodium compounds are present.

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