Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is the Difference Between Sodium and Salt?

Did anyone else notice the blunder in the New York Times City Room Blog of March 17, 2011, in which the author stated "City health officials say that people over 50, blacks and people with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease should limit their salt consumption to 1,500 milligrams a day, and the other 40 percent of adult New Yorkers should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day."

Actually, the recommendations are for 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for people at high risk and 2,300 mg of sodium per day for others. It is very important to understand the difference between sodium and salt because the amount consumed would vary depending on which substance you are referring to. Sodium is a mineral that is part of table salt. Salt, or in this case table salt, is a mixture of two minerals, sodium and chloride or sodium chloride.

Perhaps the following statement taken from the National Institutes of Health website might clarify the point.

"The current recommendation is to consume less than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams[mg] ) of sodium a day. That equals 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt a day. The 6 grams include ALL salt and sodium consumed, including that used in cooking and at the table. For someone with high blood pressure, the doctor may advise eating less salt and sodium, as recent research has shown that people consuming diets of 1,500 mg of sodium had even better blood pressure lowering benefits."

We all make mistakes; I certainly do. Hope this brief commentary helps anyone who might have been confused by the NY Times article.

If you have high blood pressure and need help deciding what to eat, consult a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most qualified by training and experience to help you make the right choices. You can find a registered dietitian by visiting the American Dietetic Association website at and searching to find a registered dietitian.