Salt and Sodium

Salt is probably our oldest food preservative. By removing moisture from foods, it allows those foods to be kept safely for future consumption. Today, however, salt is used primarily as a flavoring agent in foods, and its ubiquitous presence can cause some real hardships for people who need to restrict salt intake.

Sodium Sleuthing

Just like sugar, sodium is just about everywhere. You can even find it in some prescription and over-the-counter medications. It's another reason to become a careful label reader. Back when humans did more cooking “from scratch,” people determined how much salt was added to recipes.

To be honest, people weren't all that careful about restricting their sodium intake even then. Recipes might call for a “pinch” of salt or might even specify a much greater amount. People have always consumed more sodium than they should.

Today, however, you take what you get when you're shopping. Convenience foods are loaded with sodium — just take a look at a typical frozen dinner. Even one that advertises being “low-fat” may contain more sodium than you should be consuming at one meal.

What's the difference between salt and sodium?

Salt is the common term for sodium chloride (NaCl). This is what fills up the salt shaker on your kitchen table. Sodium is an essential mineral the body uses to regulate fluid balance, muscles, and for conduction of nerve impulses.

Some common foods with their sodium content include the following:

  • Tomato sauce, 1 cup — 1,482 mg

  • Sauerkraut, 1 cup — 1,560 mg

  • Parmesan cheese, 1 cup — 1861 mg

  • Dill pickle, 1 pickle — 928 mg

  • Chicken noodle soup, canned, 1 cup — 1,106 mg

Look for lower sodium products when you shop. You won't miss the sodium, guaranteed!

Alert

If you reach for the salt shaker before you've even tasted your food, you may be a salt addict. Reduce the amount you use, and you'll find that you can taste the food — not just the salt. If you're brave, remove the salt shaker from your table, or at least make it a bit more inconvenient to locate! Try some of the salt substitutes and herb blends. Each step that you take in a positive direction builds confidence, and that confidence has a ripple effect, extending far beyond your food. It extends into your greater life arena and helps you become more able to exert control over depression.

Recommended Daily Allowances

As a nation, we're addicted to salt. Sodium is necessary for good health, but some people overdo it. An adult needs 500 to 1,000 milligrams of sodium, daily. Excessive sodium consumption has been linked to high blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Again, dealing with these conditions while also coping with depression means it's essential to cut back on the sodium. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for 2005 recommended that adults decrease their sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams per day.

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