A pinch of salt maybe a boost to life but too much salt can trigger problems. Many people know the negatives of salt but few know why we need salt or how much is needed for health.
Salt is a combination of the minerals sodium and chloride and it is the sodium that is the focus of interest when it comes to how much salt is okay to consume. Salt is forty percent sodium and sixty percent chloride. Sodium, along with potassium, acts to regulate fluid balance in the body. Sodium also aids nerve impulse transmission, regulates blood pressure and acts with other minerals to help muscle relaxation. In addition to its role in the body sodium is important to foods.
Sodium acts to bring out the flavor of foods and also provides flavor itself but it plays several other roles in food. Sodium serves as a preservative in foods protecting them from the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold thus preventing food spoilage or foodborne illness. This usage of salt is the reason processed or packaged foods contain sodium. Sodium or salt is also important to texture in baked goods made with yeast. Sodium also affects fermentation in cheese processing and the development of bread dough. And finally sodium helps hold together processed meats like sausage, salami and pepperoni.
The amount of sodium needed from the diet is much below the amount consumed. While there is no recommended daily intake for sodium the minimum amount considered to be adequate for health is 500 milligrams. Currently the average intake of sodium is 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams per day. This excess is excreted by healthy people but can be a trigger for hypertension or kidney disease in those with a genetic predisposition to those diseases.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a maximum intake of 2,300 milligrams per day. Processed foods provide about 80 percent of the sodium in food. Table salt and the sodium that occurs naturally in foods provide the remainder of the sodium we consume. Sodium content is a required listing on all food labels so it is possible to monitor your intake by reading labels. In addition you can detect the presence of sodium by learning to look for the words salt, soda, or sodium. The words cured, brine, smoked and pickled can also indicate a higher sodium content so check the label.
Food labels may indicate that the sodium content is reduced if they meet the guidelines set forth by the Food and Drub Administration. Common terms include the following.
· Sodium or salt-free – Less than five milligrams of sodium per serving
· Low sodium – 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving
· Reduced or less sodium – At least 25% less sodium in a standard serving
Making the switch to lower sodium intake might take a little time since the taste buds need to adjust to the absence of sodium but reducing intake gradually can help.
Tips for the Week
· Check food labels for the amount of sodium
· Read the online menu for sodium content of menu items
· Limit intake of processed or packaged foods
· Taste foods before adding salt
· Season with pepper or other spices
· Enjoy processed meats like pepperoni, bacon, corned beef and salami less often