Salt is such an integral part of the world's history — used as a preservative, flavor enhancer and even used as valuable trade. Salt was highly valued and production was restricted in ancient times, so it was used as a method of trade and currency. Its ability to preserve food was a main contributor to civilization, eliminating the dependence on seasonal food and allowing food to travel long distances.
Our body's need for sodium hasn't changed, but the way we eat and the types of food available have changed drastically since ancient times. Salt is used often today in processing techniques to bind ingredients, improve flavor and increase shelf life. The majority of salt you eat has already been added to processed foods you buy from the grocery store and restaurants. Only about five percent of the salt we eat is added by the salt shaker at the table.
Processed foods are foods that aren't directly taken from the source, such as a plant or animal. For example, fresh ground turkey is unprocessed. If that fresh turkey meat is commercially prepared and other ingredients are added, such as preservatives, salt, and fillers, the turkey meat is a processed product. Processing affects the end product, and depending on the additives, can make foods less nutritious.
If you are used to a high sodium intake, you may find that lower sodium foods have less flavor at first. Once you get used to eating less salt, you'll be able to taste the natural flavor of the foods which takes about six weeks. You can begin lowering your sodium intake today by reading your food labels — aim for less than 150 milligrams of sodium per serving. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, buying foods as fresh as possible and avoiding the pre-prepared, processed foods. The top sources of sodium in today's foods are breads, cold cuts, soups, cheese and snacks like chips and popcorn. Eat less of these foods and look for low-sodium alternatives.
Sea salt has been the center of attention in the media lately, promoted as a natural source of salt. Although sea salt contains more natural essential trace minerals, it contains the same amount of sodium as regular table salt. Some people find that since sea salt has a stronger taste, they tend to use less of it than table salt.
Physicians are members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health's subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and are neither employees nor agents of those medical centers, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano or Baylor Scott & White Health.