Salt vs Salt: Are Non-Sodium Types Healthier?

Sodium chloride and sodium alternatives, such as sea salt and potassium chloride, can all be good for the body, when used properly. Sodium chloride—commonly known as table salt—is essential to the life of every organism found on planet Earth, but taken in the wrong doses this same life-giving ingredient can be toxic.

Sodium chloride may be the quintessential mineral, but as is often the case, too much of a good thing is sometimes dangerous. The key is to know how much salt is enough.

Dangers of Salt and Sodium Alternatives

Though sodium chloride is needed in the human body to maintain the correct fluid balance, assist in transmitting nerve impulses, and also to help in the relaxation and contraction of muscles, when too much salt is ingested high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and other diseases can be the end result.

For this reason, the new 2010 American Dietary Guidelines recommend that sodium chloride intake—in any form—should be reduced to less than 2,300 milligrams a day or about one teaspoonful. Further suggestions indicate that daily amounts should drop to half that amount, which is approximately 1,500 milligrams or one-half teaspoon, for individuals who are 51 years of age or older, and/or individuals of any age who are African-American and/or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

Sodium Chloride: Common Table Salt

Sodium chloride in its processed form is the very same stuff you find in your salt shaker. Mined from deep within the planet’s crust, sodium chloride is extracted along with a variety of other minerals. After heavy processing, however, all that remains are sodium chloride crystals.

Unlike most other sodium chloride alternatives, table salt has additional iodine added during processing. Iodine deficiency was once an issue of great concern for residents in the Great Lakes area and other parts of the Unites States, but after iodine was added to salt, which is used universally, iodine deficiency in the states has become an uncommon condition (sea salt contains trace amounts only of iodine).

Sodium Alternatives

Recently, some people have started to look for alternatives to traditional table salt in the hope that it will improve their health.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is produced by evaporating seawater. The residue or leftover product consists of trace minerals, including salt. These mineral deposits mix with the salt to create larger, more visible salt crystals, which tend to be more flavorful than simple table salt.

Though sea salt contains the same amount of sodium, pound-per-pound, as table salt, sea salt crystals, coarser in comparison to fine table salt crystals, usually means the amount of sodium per serving is reduced because less salt is used.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride is another of the sodium alternatives we turn to when we feel the urge to cut back on processed salt. It can be found in most sodium substitutes. Potassium chloride is a chemical mixture composed of potassium and chloride, and is considered a halide salt because it contains a halogen atom that appears in crystal form in nature. Potassium chloride also has a bitter aftertaste.

In its pure form, potassium chloride is white and odorless. When not in its pure state, however, potassium chloride will present in a variety of shades from pink to red.

Potassium chloride is often overused as a salt substitute because there is a perceived notion that there is no limit of how much can be used. Another misconception is that sodium alternatives cannot harm you. In fact, too much potassium chloride is very dangerous to anyone taking medications for kidney issues, high blood pressure or heart conditions.

According to the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, too much salt in general can cause a variety of illnesses, and is a bad habit to form.

Sodium Chloride vs Sodium Chloride Alternatives

To determine which is healthier for you—sodium chloride or sodium chloride alternatives—each individual should weight the pros and cons for his or her own personal health. Everyone is different. Everyone, especially individuals who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and kidney disease, should consult their physician before taking a sodium alternative or before thinking about incorporating additional salt to their diet.

According to a report published in Science Daily, individuals who wisely limited their salt intake could reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by one quarter. While it is exceedingly difficult to eliminate salt entirely from a Western diet, it is possible to set reachable goals.

For most healthy adults, sodium alternatives such as sea salt may be the best choice. Sea salt is less processed and has larger salt crystals, which means less salt is generally used per meal. And in the case of salt, less is almost always better.



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