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Salt FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:Foods that are marketed as low in sodium must meet which standard?

A:Less than 5% of the daily value. When reading a "nutrition facts" panel on a food product, look for the sodium content. Foods that are low in sodium (less than 140 mg or 5% of the daily value [DV]) are low in salt.

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Q:Most sodium in the American diet comes from what?

A:Processed foods. About 77% of sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods.

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Q:The human body will crave a fixed amount of salt every day. True or False?

A:False. An individual's preference for salt is not fixed. After consuming foods lower in salt for a period of time, taste for salt tends to decrease. This usually happens within 8 to 12 weeks.

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Q:Salt and sodium are the same thing. True or False?

A:False. Salt is made up of sodium and chlorine (called sodium chloride). But there are other forms of sodium in food, including baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and food additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, and sodium benzoate. Any form of sodium adds to your overall daily intake, but salt makes up about 90% of the sodium we consume.

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Q:Which is higher in sodium: 8 ounces of tomato juice or 8 ounces of tomato soup?

A:8 ounces of tomato soup. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 ounces of tomato soup has at least 700 mg of sodium, which packs nearly twice the sodium of the same amount of 8 ounces of tomato juice, which has at least 340 mg of sodium.

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Q:Which has higher sodium: Canned green beans or frozen green beans?

A:Canned green beans. Canned vegetables have more salt than freshly prepared or frozen vegetables, unless you choose canned foods with "no salt added."

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Q:High-salt diets have been linked to what kinds of health problems?

A:High blood pressure. By far, the biggest health problem caused by a high-salt diet is high blood pressure. On average, the higher your salt intake, the higher your blood pressure. And high blood pressure increases your risk for stroke, kidney problems, heart failure, blindness, and heart attacks.

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Q:What is the maximum recommended sodium intake for healthy adults?

A:1 teaspoon. Healthy adults should limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day (about the amount in 1 teaspoon of table salt). On average, Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day (the amount contained in about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt).

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Q:Who should limit their sodium content to not more than 1,500 mg per day?

A:Certain populations are more prone to high blood pressure or at risk from its effects. For these groups -- including people 50 years of age or older, African-Americans, or people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease --1,500 mg per day is the recommended maximum intake of sodium. Some people may need to consume even less.

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Q:Who consumes more sodium?

A:Men. Men consume more dietary sodium than women because they simply eat more food.

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Q:Chemically speaking, table salt, sea salt, and kosher salt are the same. True or False?

A:True. Table salt, sea salt, and kosher salt are all the same thing: sodium chloride. And they all have the same sodium content (40%). The differences are primarily in texture and taste. In the end, though, they all contribute equally to your total sodium consumption.

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Q:People with diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease should use salt substitutes. True or False?

A:False. Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride and can be used by individuals to replace salt in their diet. There are no known undesirable effects in healthy people who consume a lot of potassium; however, potassium could be harmful to people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. Check with your doctor before using salt substitutes.

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