HEALTH TIPS How much salt should you Really Be Eating?


Next to sugar, salt might be one of the most vilified ingredients in our diets. Practically every resource says we should be eating less of the stuff because it can lead to major health problems. But does that actually mean that the best thing to do is give up salt completely?
The answer might surprise you. While most people need to cut back on salt and sodium (and yes, the two are different!), our bodies still need the stuff to function. What’s more, getting rid of the salt shaker on your kitchen table probably isn’t the most effective way to get your intake in check.
Here’s the real deal on salt, including when it’s good and when it’s bad. Plus, answers to your other salty questionslike whether salt makes you thirsty and whether that pricey pink Himalayan stuff is really a health food.
Salt and sodium aren’t exactly the same thing.
The two are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually a little different. Sodium is a mineral, and small amounts are found naturally in foods like milk, beets, and celery. It’s also added in much larger quantitiesto packaged foods, both for flavor and as a preservative. In fact, around 75 percent of the sodium we get comes from packaged or processed foods, according to the American Heart Association .
Table salt, on the other hand, is a combo of the minerals sodium and chloride. Salt consists of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride, with a teaspoon of the stuff packing around 2,300 mg (that’s a day’s worth) of sodium.
Your body needs sodium. But it’s easy to get too muchand lots of us do.
Even though it gets a bad rap, sodium is essential for our health. It’s an electrolyte that helps transmit nerve impulses and maintains fluid balance. It also affects muscle’s ability to contract and relax, explains Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, media representative of the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In other words? If you were to cut salt out of your diet completely, you’d be in bad shape.
The problem comes from getting too much. (Which can be easy to do, because hey, salt makes food taste good!) The body only needs 500 mg of sodium per day but the average American gets around 3,400 mg . And going overboard can lead to health issues. Excess salt causes your body to hold onto extra water, which increases your blood volume. That puts more pressure on your blood vessels and forces your heart to work harder . Eventually, this sets the stage for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Some people need to pay closer attention to their salt intake than others.
Limiting your sodium intake to a measly 500 mg daily would be toughnot to mention leave your food pretty bland. Fortunately, almost no one needs to keep their intake quite that low.
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume fewer than 2,300 mg sodium daily. But some people need to eat less. If you have high blood pressure (or are at risk for it) or diabetes, you should keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg daily.
Other serious health problemslike heart failure, kidney disease, heart disease, or lymphedema are also cause for curbing your sodium consumption, Kerkenbush says. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you determine how much sodium is safe to have.

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