Have you noticed that your tastes may vary, craving salty or sweet foods in different moments of the day? Years of gathered research from studies done on infant’s to adult’s show that salt is both a preference and a requirement. The same research proved that we have a craving for sweet tasting food’s driven by a gene which promotes the need for fruit and vegetables.
“It is worth one’s salt” to understand sodium’s importance in maintaining the health of the body and the difference between:
- Salt and sodium
- Salts benefit’s and limit’s
- How to interpret our blood pressure numbers
- Foods reducing Sodium level’s
Difference between Salt and Sodium
While sodium and salt are words that are often interchangeable the difference is determined between the name of the mineral and the function of one of its element’s. Salt, also known as sodium chloride (NaCl) is made up of two elements: 40% sodium (Na) and 60% chloride (Cl). 1/4 teaspoon of salt contains 600 milligrams of sodium (Na). The body requires no more that 2300 milligrams of sodium per day, or 1 teaspoon of salt a day.
Sea Salt and Table Salt have the same amount of sodium. Sea salt is produced from the evaporation of sea water, while table salt is: mined, ground and has iodide added to the grains. (which lacks in sea salt).
Salt’s Benefit’s and Limit’s
Briefly stated, the benefits of sodium are found in: sweating, transporting nutrient’s from head to foot, transmitting nerve impulses (250-500 mg sodium just for neurological & psychological function’s) and contracting muscles such as your heart.
Equally important are the limit’s that sodium imposes; when the kidney has an excess of sodium it releases water which then increases the blood volume. As the blood level increases, it’s flow within the body also increases the blood pressure. The heart will in turn work harder to pump blood which in creates instability within the blood vessel’s and creates a risk for heart problems, or a stroke. A great argument for limiting daily salt intake. Limit sodium intake to 1500 mg Na per day (1/2 tsp salt) For those: over age 51, have diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease.
Interpreting Blood Pressure Number’s
A Doctor’s appointment will prove valuable in evaluating an individual’s blood pressure. As adult’s age systolic blood pressure increases by four points per decade. The systolic number is the first number documented in a blood pressure reading 120/80. 120 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) indicates the maximum arterial pressure during a contraction of the left ventricle of the heart contracts. It is advised to not exceed the maximum pressure of 120 so as to not force the heart to work harder in pumping the necessary blood that the body requires. While the diastolic, second number “80”mm Hg, represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.
- Rating Systolic Diastolic
- Optimal <100 <80
- Normal < 130 <85
- High Normal 135-139 85-89
- Hypertension Stage 1 140-159 90-99
- Hypertension Stage 2 160-179 100-109
- Hypertension Stage 3 >179+ >109
Less than <
Greater than >
Eat Food High in Potassium to Reduce Sodium Levels
If no other health problem’s are present, keeping blood pressure within normal level’s can be achieved through simple changes at mealtime. Daily drink 6-8 glasses of water and chew on food with higher amounts of Potassium (K) which will push unnecessary amounts of Na from the body. An individual needs to consume only 4700 mg K per day to keep the mechanic’s of the body in optimal condition. While all fruits and vegetables will have Potassium the following have higher amounts, choose any 2-3 per meal:
- 1 Sweet Potato or 1 Baked Potato
- 8 oz Yogurt
- 4 Prunes 0r 1 Banana
- 1/2 c diced Tomato or 1/2 c. chopped Spinach
- 1/2 c. White or Lima or 1 Tbsp Soy bean’s
- 3 ounces Clams, Halibut, Cod or Tuna Fish
4 Effective Changes to Reduce Sodium when Preparing, or Seasoning Meals:
- When purchasing prepackaged foods READ the FOOD LABEL make sure that the Potassium values are higher than the sodium values.
- Throw out bottled: seasoning’s, garlic and onion powder’s
- Reduce salt by 1/2 of normal use
- Incorporate 1 Tablespoon freshly chopped herbs, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper, a minced garlic clove and/2 onion for flavoring foods. Herbs and Spices to Replace the Salt Shaker
By: Kimberly Crocker
- Developmental Psychology Copyright 1990 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 1990, Vol. 26, No. 4, 539-545 http://nutri.jtf.org.tw/en/doc/Preference%20for%20High%20Salt%20Concentrations%20Among%20Children.pdf
- USDA http://www.csrees.usda.gov/nea/food/pdfs/hhs_facts_sodium.pdf
- The Psychology of Eating and Drinking By Alexandra W. Logue (pg 74 -78)
- Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sea-salt/AN01142