The Low Sodium Controversy

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Sodium Intake In Our American Nutrition/diet

There has been a recent surge in the media/press about sodium intake in our American nutrition/diet. First what I am going to do is explain exactly what sodium is versus salt. Second I will give you what the medical and governmental guidelines are for what the human body requires and what we actually get from American foods. Then there are some confusing definitions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on what is Low Sodium versus Very Low Sodium versus Reduced Sodium.

Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte (essential chemical) in human cellular function. It is used in every body organ and system and you could not function and yes you could possibly get very sick or die if your sodium levels rapidly change. But the body is very good at maintaining its sodium balance. There are human populations in Brazil that live on an extremely small amount of sodium. As well as in Japan some of the island populations consume over 10 grams of sodium and do just fine. If the body is healthy it will compensate and adjust. What I am trying to say here is that sodium is very important to human life. When consumed in moderation (Americans never do anything in moderation) sodium is an essential part of a healthy diet.

There has been a lot of controversy over sodium intakes in America since as far back as the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sodium and salt have been vilified as the scourge of society. There have been medical studies that say it’s a bad, bad, bad thing and you need to avoid it like the plague. Then there will be another study that says that it is fine and that all the bad press is bunk.

Recently (2010) more detailed studies show that in the amount of sodium that we consume in this country with all the other compounding medical stressors that we are developing (i.e., Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Hypertension, Metabolic Syndrome, Kidney Disease, and many more) we as a population are doing ourselves harm. Most recently the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have strongly recommended that we limit our intake of sodium in our diets.

The Recommended Daily Allowance for sodium is 1,500 mg per day, believe it or not, that equates to 1 teaspoon of salt per day. “Did that just say 1 teaspoon a day!?” When you really analyze what we as Americans get in our daily intake of sodium it on average is 3 to 5 times that. Sodium is in almost everything we eat.

What all these current studies are finding is that if we limit our sodium intake it decreases the chances of developing many diseases. The restrictions of 1,500 mg of sodium per day is especially important in the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and many others.

How Much Sodium Is The Right Amount?

“So much confusion! Just simplify it for me and give me some basic guidelines Doctor!!”

So here you go:

  • If you are elderly (I”m not touching that one), an African American Man, or if you have major medical issues as listed above, you should probably try to monitor your sodium intake and do your best to keep around 1,500 mg per day.
  • If you are otherwise a healthy adult (18 to 65ish) you really do not have to worry too much. But don’t think that you are invincible and that nothing is going to hurt you. 

If I had to give you a recommendation I would still keep your sodium intake under 2,500 mg. Even that will be considered pretty low sodium compared to what most of us normally get on a daily basis.

Now to the definition of what is “Low Sodium”. The FDA has some rather complicated terms and definitions for how the quantify the amount of sodium in foods. Below what I have done is to simplify it into plain English:

  • SALT/SODIUM FREE: less than 5 mg per labeled serving
  • VERY LOW SODIUM: 35 mg or less per serving
  • LOW SODIUM: 140 mg or less per serving
  • REDUCED or LESS SODIUM: 25% or less sodium than a similar food
  • LIGHT SODIUM: if food is “Low Calorie” and “Low Fat” sodium is reduced by 50%
  • Or if sodium is reduced by at least 50% then comparable food.

You see it can get quite complicated. What we have decided to do with all of our Sneals® at Carbessentials is to identify all that have 140 mg of sodium or less. You can already find these sneals® on-line at the weight loss food store. That section is our variety of “Low Sodium Sneals®”, here you will only see Sneals® that are designated as low in sodium (140 mg or less).

I hope you can appreciate the hard work that goes into providing to our patients/customers the absolute best quality nutrition in Quick, Convenient, Portable Single Serving, High Quality Morsels of Food that we lovingly call Sneals®. Then what we have done is to go above and beyond and take over 1,000 products isolate them out into specialized categories is truly a labor of love. We now have the following categories:

  • Low Sugar Sneals®
  • Low Sodium Sneals®
  • Fiber Sneals®
  • Caffeinated Sneals®
  • Gluten Free Sneals®
  • Lactose Free Sneals®
  • Soy Free Sneals®
  • Vegetarian Sneals®
  • Kosher Sneals®
  • Whey Only Sneals®

I hope all this makes sense to you. Remember that you can follow us @:

I love to write and educate so please check in on a regular basis and you will see something new. Remember I am the “purchasing agent” and I am always looking for and finding new and unique products that fit the definition of a Sneal®. We add many new products to the store every month.

Hippocrates (the founding father of medicine) said…

“Make your food your medicine” That is an incredibly intuitive statement for anyone to say but to think that he was alive over 2,000 years ago even makes it more powerful.