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Salt: 5 things you may not know 

May 08, 2018

As a trusted supplier of salt to the food and beverage industry, Cargill knows a thing or two about this widely used but often misunderstood ingredient. It’s well known that salt contains sodium, and many people may be looking for ways to reduce sodium in their diets. But there are some things about salt that might surprise you.

1. Salt is essential for all of us

While many people are focused on consuming less sodium, it’s important to remember that some sodium is essential for good health. This is why salt has been a key part of the human diet throughout history. It helps regulate blood pressure and volume, and it contributes to muscle and nerve health.

What’s more, salt is often enriched to deliver other essential nutrients like iodine and fluoride.  In tropical regions such as Haiti, salt is fortified with medicine to fight off disease.

2. Salt’s benefits go beyond taste

Salt is an incredibly useful ingredient in food. Sure, it adds taste and enhances flavor in everything from steamed veggies to steak. It even brings forward flavors that would otherwise be too subtle to notice. But it also gives essential texture to all kinds of breads, cheeses, meats and more.

Perhaps just as important, salt is an excellent preservative. It keeps many types of food fresh longer and can even make food safer by inhibiting the growth of foodborne pathogens. No wonder people have used it for millennia to make all sorts of foods available year-round.

3. Sodium doesn’t affect everyone the same way

Talk with your doctor, a dietitian or other health professional about the amount of sodium that’s right for you. Guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend that adults consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day, which is equal to 5 grams of salt. Many people around the world consume much more than that.

Too much sodium in the diet can lead to hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart disease and other health conditions. The good news is, studies have shown that people with hypertension or pre-hypertension can improve their blood pressure by lowering high intakes of sodium. The benefit of reducing sodium intake is less clear for individuals with normal blood pressure.

4. There are lots of ways to reduce sodium in your diet

Dietitians and health organizations have a handful of tried and true ways to lower sodium intake. Shift the balance in your diet toward fresh meats as opposed to cured or processed. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Exercise portion control. Perhaps easiest of all, read the labels on foods you buy to watch for those with high amounts of sodium per serving.

Today, more food companies are making it easier for consumers by lowering the amount of sodium in a wide array of food products. Cargill has several sodium reduction options for food manufacturers, including Potassium Pro® potassium chloride and Alberger® salt crystals, which are specially shaped to deliver maximum salty flavor with less sodium.

5. Salt is not the whole story

Research indicates that a diet with lots of potassium-rich foods may help alleviate conditions like hypertension. In fact, potassium chloride is increasingly being used as a substitute for salt in many foods. It functions much like salt and provides a salty taste, so it’s an easy swap that can lower the sodium content in a wide range of foods by up to 50 percent while enriching potassium levels.

Earlier this year, Cargill started producing food-grade potassium chloride for the first time, so we now have a number of potassium chloride offerings to help food companies make this switch.