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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.
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