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What is the difference between Salt and Sodium?

salt and pepper shaker

While salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between the two. Understanding exactly how they differ is important when making decisions about your diet and your health.
What is Salt?

Table salt is a common term for the salt that we add to food or use in cooking, but it isn’t pure sodium. Table salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl), is approximately 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight.

Most of the world’s salt is harvested from salt mines (from sea beds that dried up long ago) or by evaporating seawater and other mineral-rich waters. Salt has various purposes, the most common being to flavor foods. Salt is also used as a food preservative since bacteria have trouble growing in a salt-rich environment. As we’ve seen, flavoring and preservation are the two main reasons manufacturers add sodium chloride to fast food items and many packaged foods.

Now that we’ve covered salt, how is it different from sodium? Let’s go over some of the top sodium facts.

Sodium is a naturally-occurring mineral that is either innately found in foods, added during the manufacturing process, or sometimes both. It’s an electrolyte, which means it carries an electric charge when dissolved in bodily fluids such as blood. Approximately 90% of the sodium we eat is in the form of sodium chloride. The other 10% comes from other forms of sodium in foods we eat, like baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate.

Most of the sodium in your body is in your blood as well as the fluid around your cells. Sodium plays a key role in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function as well as keeping bodily fluids in normal balance. Your body gets sodium through eating and drinking and eliminates it primarily through urine and sweat losses — a process managed by healthy kidneys. When the sodium you eat and the sodium you excrete aren’t in balance, this affects the total amount of sodium in your body, which can lead to health problems.

(Excerpt taken from The Food Revolution)

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