« Warrior Dash: The craziest race with the coolest stuff | Main | Fitness Expo »

December 22, 2010

Navigating your salt choices

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on salt intake.

Salt is one of the world’s most common additives and has also been a precious commodity for centuries. It was used for food preservation as well as an offering in ancient Egyptians tombs. These days salt is found everywhere and can be hidden in a list of ingredients. For most Americans too much is consumed daily and can cause quite a few health problems, most notability high blood pressure. But for some extreme athletes higher salt intake is needed.

On the shelves at grocery stores or specialty markets you might see more than one choice; table salt, fleur de sel, sea salt, Kosher salt and salt substitutes (Mrs. Dash, No Salt, etc.). How do you know which one to choose? Just know that all of the different types of salt will provide the same amount of sodium, the cause of health issues. The only exception will be your salt substitutes since they are manufactured for people who have high blood pressure or heart disease. Some people like to state that sea salt is “natural” and a “healthier alternative” but just know it will cause the same effects as regular table salt. Even the fancy pink, grey and finishing salts are all basically the same; they just have a different flavor depending on where they were harvested from.

Some sources of salt can be hard to find if you don’t know the scientific language used on food labels. Monosodium glutamate, sodium chloride, monosodium chloride are all sources of salt. It can be found in soy sauce, baked goods, cheese and canned goods. Beware of the choices you make daily. Choose lower salt or no salt varieties when offered, especially with canned goods. Or, if you are able, prepare your own foods. This allows you to control the amount of salt added to recipes. Avoid placing the salt shaker on the dinner table, for some the temptation is too strong to resist.

The recommended daily intake of salt is 2,400 mg, which is about the size of 1 teaspoon. For people who have high blood pressure, the recommended daily intake is 1,500 mg, which is about the size of 2/3 teaspoon. There are other ways to make foods tasty without adding salt. By using different herbs and spices, the flavor of foods can be intensified and you can be kinder to your health. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a great website to pair meats and vegetable with healthy flavorings.

If you are a marathon runner or ultra-athlete, you may need to increase the amount of salt you take in per day, but it differs between individuals. If you sweat excessively, exercise in the heat and have very salty skin when finished you shouldn’t limit the amount of salt you take in daily. Just know that you won’t replace the salt lost with sports drinks, they are actually higher in water. After the extreme sweating just have a meal that is higher in salt to help replace what was lost. Salt is found everywhere in the world and has been linked to major health problems. You can help by arming yourself with the knowledge of reading food labels, knowing how much you take in daily and how to substitute for extra flavor.

Posted by Kim Walker at 9:59 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition


the 2005 Dietary Guideline recommendations are:
Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 tsp of salt) of sodium per day.
Specific Population Groups
Individuals with hypertension, blacks, and middle-aged and older adults should aim to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.
The Nutrition Facts label has 2,400mg listed (consume no more than), but is likely being updated.

Natural sea salt may save your life. You can believe what you want, but you are wrong about your salt critique. If you want to learn more, then experience for yourself natural unrefined unprocessed unadultered salt, and find that it is for life, for yourself. I am exhausted just trying to comment on your misinformed article.

I apologize for ranting. Do not ruin quality food with crappy salt!

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
View Twitter feed
Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
View Twitter feed
Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
View Twitter feed
Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
View Twitter feed

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Reader photos

Share your race photos
Upload your photos from races. Post times, if you like.
Stay connected