Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cancer

Can I drink alcohol on my diet?

Chitosan - A Pill that Absorbs Fat?

Cholesterol - Eat more fat to lower?

Coffee! Should You or Shouldn't You?


Ephedra - Warning

EZ Zucchini

Fat Snack

Fats - Mono, Poly, Saturated

Food Poisoning

Food Labels that Fool You

Genetics and Obesity


Hunger - What is it?

I Ate too Much!

Olestra - The fat that's not a fat?



Salt - Something Nice

Sports Nutrition

Sun - Good Nutrition

Vegetable Soup Homemade

Vegetarian Eating

Vegetarians are Healthier?

Winners and Losers on Your Plate

Something Nice About Salt! There's so much talk these days about "too much salt" that many people are afraid to sprinkle even a little bit of that "white stuff" on their food. If you're a saltaholic and tired of hearing about how bad salt is for you, then read on.

Salt, NaCl, is a molecule composed of sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl) with sodium comprising 40% of the molecule. Sodium, a necessary substance in the body, is needed for normal heart beat and transmittal of nerve impulses, as well as a myriad of other body functions. Have you ever cried salty tears? Fluid in the eye is high in sodium which helps prevent bacterial growth. Because salt is inexpensive and easily accessible to everyone, adding iodine to produce iodized salt is the easiest way to prevent goiter in a large population of people.

The level of sodium in the body is closely regulated by the kidneys which maintain blood levels within a narrow range (between 135-147 meq/liter). When too much sodium enters the bloodstream, the thirst mechanism kicks in to encourage fluid intake. The kidneys then begin to flush out excess sodium by pulling fluid from the body, which continues until blood levels of sodium are back to normal. After consuming a bag of salty chips and a soda, you may feel bloated from fluid retention due to excess salt, but this is short-lived once the flushing process begins. Keep in mind that if too much salt is consumed and not enough fluids, you can become dehydrated.

Chlorine, like sodium, is also a necessary substance. Chlorine aids in acid-base balance of the body and helps carry carbon dioxide to the lungs to be expelled. Chlorine is part of hydrochloric acid, one of the components of stomach acid needed for the action of gastric enzymes.

How much salt is Ok to use? You might be surprised to learn there's a minimum requirement of 500 mg. (*see note below) of salt per day, or 200 mg. of sodium. Sorry - that doesn't mean you should use more salt - the average person already consumes 10 to 15 grams per day or more of salt which is well above the minimum requirement. Sodium is contained abundantly in foods we eat, including naturally from vegetables, and is added to processed foods, so there's no need to be concerned that you're not getting enough in your diet.

You'll be equally surprised to discover there are no maximum standards for salt intake. Therefore, if you have healthy kidneys, there's no need to be afraid of using salt in reasonable quantities. But be sensible! A little bit of salt overload is Ok once in a while, but not routinely. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when eating salty foods to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Who should not use salt? Avoid salt and salty foods if you have kidney disease or high blood pressure, if you have a family history of these diseases, or if your doctor has advised you to restrict sodium intake.

What about salt substitutes? Salt substitutes are composed of potassium chloride, KCl, instead of sodium chloride (NaCl). Like sodium, potassium (K) is also necessary for proper body function and is regulated by the kidneys (between 3.3-5.5 meq/liter). But beware! If you've been pouring on the salt substitute in lieu of the real stuff, you should know that too much potassium can upset the normal operation of many body functions and is dangerous especially if you have heart disease. Unless you've been advised by your physician to use KCl, it's best to use salt rather than salt substitutes. Never use salt substitutes if you're on a potassium restricted diet or if you have kidney disease. Chances are, if you're on a salt restricted diet, potassium is also restricted.

We couldn't talk about salt without mentioning salt's mate, pepper! You'll be happy to know there are no reported harmful effects from pepper, so you can use as much as you can stomach.

It seems we're always being told we have to give up something we like to eat in order to stay healthy. If you're a salt-lover and have not been advised by your physician to restrict it, then you'll be thrilled to discover that salt is one pleasure you don't have to give up - and that's something nice about salt.

Note: 1000 milligrams (mg.) = 1 gram (gm.), therefore, 500 mg. = ½ of a gram.

-If you're using salt substitutes while following a potassium restricted diet, beware that salt substitute products can contain as much as 14 meq. of potassium per one-eighth teaspoon!

-Soy sauce is another form of salt and should be avoided on a salt restricted diet.

-Sea salt is not a good source of iodine and should not be used instead of table salt. But kelp (seaweed), is high in iodine if you wish to use it along with sea salt.

Where do you get your nutrition information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed" by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist (LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered Dietitian.




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Barbara Herondorf, L.D.

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