Salt and sodium are not the same. Often, we use the terms interchangeably, but only 40% of salt is made up of sodium. The other 60% is chloride. Salt (sodium chloride) is the major contributor of sodium in our diets. One teaspoon of table salt contains about 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
Sodium is essential for good health and life itself. We need to eat a small amount of sodium because the body cannot manufacture this mineral. Also, it is almost impossible to totally eliminate sodium from one’s diet because it occurs naturally in most foods including meats, poultry, dairy products and vegetables.
Sodium and sodium-containing ingredients play many important roles during food processing. Of course sodium makes many foods simply taste better, but it also helps preserve and keep foods safe by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds. For example, sodium-containing compounds are added to ready-to-eat meats and processed cheese products to prevent spoilage and the growth of harmful bacteria. In fermented foods, such as pickles, salt helps to draw moisture out of foods, resulting in a pickled food with a crisp texture. Salt is added to breads to improve texture and sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is used as a leavening agent in baked goods to increase volume and tenderness.
Health experts suggest choosing a diet moderate in salt and sodium. The current recommendation for healthy people is to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Some individuals may need to have a daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams per day, as recommended by their health professional. If you are over 51 years old, an African American of any age, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, the recommended intake is 1500mg or less per day.