UNL for Families: Which is it salt or sodium?

The Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020 include a Key Recommendation that individuals consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Most reports say Americans consume too much sodium. One question many people ask is if sodium and salt are the same. They are not exactly the same but many times the words are used interchangeably. Sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt. Table salt is about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. The Nutrition Fact label uses the word ‘sodium’ but the label on the front of the package might reference the amount of salt in the food. Ninety percent of the sodium consumed is in the form of salt.
    Almost everyone needs some sodium in their diets. Sodium is a mineral that is regulated by your kidneys and helps control your body’s fluid balance, nerve impulses and affects muscle function. The American Heart Association reports that too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure because the extra sodium pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the amount of blood inside them. With more blood flowing through your blood vessels, blood pressure increases. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body. And the extra water in your body can lead to bloating and weight gain.

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