When we discuss the subject of salt, it is imperative that we first recognize the biochemical difference between sodium and chloride. Sodium is a critically important micronutrient in virtually all biochemical processes. Sodium is salt. Salt is life! It is unfortunate and a bit ludicrous that sodium is demonized by modern society, a micronutrient that is an essential component in almost all biological reactions. “Reduced sodium” and “low sodium” are virtually meaningless terms in the context of real-world nutrition science. “Low sodium” relative to what? An individual organism’s specific osmotic pressure within the intracellular matrix? Okay, I’ll take off my propeller hat now and get down to the nitty gritty.
Standard iodized table salt contains an inferior concentration of sodium (40%) to chloride (60%). Salt is a compound (a formulation), not a mineral, like sodium, hence not all salt is created equal, e.g. table salt versus sea salt is an excellent example of this. Although the quantifying terms (free, low, reduced) may seem arbitrary to those who choose to ignore the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), they were put into place to assist consumers consuming a repugnant Standard American Diet (SAD) to make dietary decisions relative to salt that will help to offset the detrimental effects of consuming highly processed foods loaded with an unnatural amount of salt. The mass incorporation of salt into processed foods creates an “eat more” tactic, due to the flavor modification that creates an inexpensive way for food manufacturers to promote greater consumption and higher product sales, similar to their strategies relating to sugar. This increased caloric consumption is a problem in and of itself, regardless of the sodium content of foods.
The defining terms, put into perspective to make sense, signify the quantity of sodium in a single serving of a particular food. “Low sodium” will contain 140mg or less of sodium and “reduced sodium” will have at least a quarter-less sodium than the traditional marketed product (almost exclusively processed), making these terms a basis for comparison only, but meaningless in terms of the physiological impact on a specific human being’s physiology, which is influenced by a multitude of factors that are inextricably intertwined, e.g. genetics, lifestyle, physical activity level, chronic and acute health conditions such hypertension or kidney disease, and even the time of year. Although many of us may be possessed of the knowledge and willpower to nourish our bodies responsibly, the majority of Americans evidently are not. Therefore, these terms related to salt have been summoned and defined by public health authorities to provide general guidelines that will encourage people to limit their salt consumption to below a total of 1500mg of sodium per day. To know exactly how much salt you should be consuming, you will need to consult with your physician or a qualified nutritionist/dietitian. Don’t just automatically assume that less salt is always better!