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Friday’s Flavor: The scoop on salt

Sea salt is marketed as a better option than table salt, but the sodium content is nearly the same.

One might be able to tell the differences in taste and texture, but the chemical makeup is similar.

 Sea salt is manufactured by evaporating seawater. During this process, some minerals which add flavor and color, are left behind.

Iodized salt is more processed in order to get rid of the minerals, and then the essential nutrient, iodine, is added.

Iodine is important for hormone development and if you do not get enough, it can lead to an enlarged thyroid gland and iodine deficiency disorders.

 Your body only needs a few hundred milligrams of sodium per day to stay healthy, but most people get much more than that.

The American Heart Association recommends that Americans get no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day because high sodium diets are attributed to high blood pressure.

We can eat foods high in sodium, but we must balance them with low sodium foods.

 There are no negative effects of decreasing salt and sodium intake. In fact, reducing the amount of sodium in your diet has been shown to lower blood pressure levels in those who have and do not have high blood pressure.

 The majority of our sodium – about 77 percent – is already in the foods we eat, whether they are processed or meals prepared at a restaurant.

So before you add a ‘dash’ of salt to your food, think about what you are eating and if you really need the extra sodium.

 Our bodies need salt in order to perform some essential functions.

For instance, maintaining the fluid in our blood cells and transmitting information to our nerves and muscles.

We have to rely on the food we eat to get our required intake of sodium because our bodies cannot make sodium.

 Three main sources of sodium that are in our diets all the time are processed and prepared foods (as mentioned above), sodium-containing condiments (soy sauce) and natural sources of sodium (meat, poultry, dairy products, and vegetables).

 Some easy ways to moderate your sodium intake are to:

1. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, they contain less sodium than canned.  You can also try “no salt added” canned products.

2. Read the Nutrition Facts Label to compare sodium content – look for labels that say “low-sodium” or have less than 140 milligrams (5 percent daily value).

3. Use spices and herbs to add flavor to food to help cut salty seasonings in half.

4. Don’t put the salt shaker on the table during meals because you are more likely to use it – keep it in the cupboard.

5. Request less salt in meals when dining out.

 A great way to assess how much salt you are actually using is by using the “shaker test.” Put foil or plastic wrap over a plate and salt your “food” as you normally would. Measure the amount of salt you added to the covering. If the amount was one-fourth of a teaspoon, you added about 600 milligrams of sodium; if one-eighth, about 300 milligrams.

 If you are concerned about the amount of sodium you might be adding to your diet consult your doctor about the level of sodium that is best for you.

 Overall, be sure to look at the nutrition facts labels on your food. Whether it is made with sea salt or table salt, you want to pick the one with the lowest amount of sodium.

Amanda Seguin is a senior dietetics major. Friday’s Flavor is edited for accuracy by Jeanette Davidson, a registered dietician and director of the dietetics program.