Are salt and sodium the same thing?

Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics

No.  Salt and sodium are not the same thing.

"Salt" is the term commonly used for sodium chloride (NaCl) which is table salt. Sodium chloride is just 40% sodium and 60% chloride. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium.

It's important to note that in addition to sodium chloride, sodium shows up in food in other forms including monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium nitrate (a preservative) among many others.

While the words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Sodium is a substance that affects blood pressure and is the main ingredient in salt. Ordinary table salt is only 40 percent sodium. The other 60 percent is another mineral, chloride. It is the sodium part of salt that is necessary to maintain water balance in body tissues. However, too much sodium can increase fluid retention and elevate blood pressure in people who are sodium sensitive.
While the average American consumers about 2 to 4 teaspoons of salt per day (4400 to 8800 milligrams of sodium), the body only needs about ½ to 1 ½ teaspoons of salt per day (1100 to 3300 milligrams of sodium). By reducing the amount of salt in your diet, you may lower your blood pressure, too.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.