People often think that salt and sodium are the same things when they read a food label. To be accurate, however, those tiny white crystals in your shaker are about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Sodium itself is one of the fundamental elements found in nature. However, sodium listed as a food ingredient is not necessarily salt.
Whatever the case, the human body needs sodium to survive. One of the ways we get sodium is by eating salt. But other foods contain sodium naturally. A single serving of milk, for example, contains 107 mg of sodium. A red beet contains about 65 mg of sodium. A large stalk of celery and a carrot each carry about 50 mg of natural sodium.
The human body uses sodium to help it transmit impulses across the nervous system. Sodium is necessary for muscles to expand and relax. It also keeps a proper balance of water in the body.
Sodium has earned a bad reputation with health experts, however. That’s because most people get too much of a good thing. Modern diets today are loaded with salt and sodium levels that go far beyond what the body requires to function properly. Too much sodium is associated with many common diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney dysfunction.
The average American eats about 1.5 teaspoons of salt per day. That is the equivalent of 3,400 mg of sodium. The U.S. Guidelines for Adequate Intake (AI) state that the maximum amount for people age 14 and over is 1,500 mg of salt daily. Thus, 1.5 teaspoon is more than double what people need. Also, consider that the 3,400 mg of sodium in a teaspoon-and-a-half of salt is added to the sodium we get naturally in food like milk, beets, carrots, and other foods.
Furthermore, processed foods, such as frozen pizzas, bread, canned soups, sandwich meat, and more are loaded with high amounts of sodium. Food suppliers add salt to help preserve food but mostly because it tastes good to people who have developed salty eating habits.