Salt and sodium often used synonymously but are not exactly the same. Sodium is a mineral that is naturally present in food products or is added during manufacturing or both, while salt is a combination of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. Our body needs little bit of sodium to contract muscles, send nerve impulses, and maintain a healthy balance of fluids. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure which in turn may increase the chances of stroke and heart attack. Further research also suggests that an excess amount of sodium can increase the risk of osteoporosis, renal failure and gastric ulcers.

1 g of salt is equivalent to 400 mg of sodium; 1 g of sodium is equivalent to 2.5 g of salt.

As per the WHO 2013 guidelines, “Adults should consume less than 2000 mg of sodium or 5 gram of salt”. American heart Association (AHA) has further encouraged people to keep their sodium intake below 1500 mg per day.

Where it’s hidden?

Sodium plays many roles, from adding flavour and taste to enhancing food’s colour and its shelf life, it does all! Shockingly more than 70% of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods, whereas only a small portion 11% comes from salt added to food when cooking or eating.  Some of the sodium rich foods are listed below:

  • Papad, Pickles, sauces, mayonnaise, sandwich spreads, canned Juices
  • Ready to eat food such as breakfast cereals, ready-made soups, ready-made masala mixes and batters, instant meals, ham,  sausage etc
  • Restaurant food and fast foods like pizza, burger, chips etc
  • Canned Foods like smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, canned beans, salted nuts.
  • Packaged baked goods like biscuits, rusk, breads, cakes etc.

Sodium is also present in form of additives, which are listed either by name or by additive number also known as ‘E number’. Sometimes, it’s hidden in words that are difficult to recognize such as ‘spices’, ‘yeast extract’, ‘hydrolyzed vegetable protein’ and ‘flavouring’. Food products with these chemicals may not be salty but still have high amount sodium in it.


Buffering Agents/ Emulsifying Agents / Stabliser Raising Agent/ Acidity Regulators Taste Enhancer/ Flavour Enhancer
Tetra Sodium Pyrophosphate (E 450)


Sodium Triphosphate

(E 451)


Sodium Phosphate (E 452)

Sodium Carbonate (E 500)


Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate (E 501)

Mono Sodium Glutamate

(E 621)


Disodium Guanylate (E 627)


Disodium Inosinate ( E 631)


Sodium 5 Ribonucleotide

(E 635)


How to reduce Sodium?

To reduce sodium it is very important to look at the broader aspect rather than focusing on few products and try to make changes at every step. Few points which can be considered are as follows:

  • Fill half of your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables: Our body needs more potassium than sodium. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium, by filling your plate with them, you will be able to boost potassium and shift the sodium potassium balance in your favour.
  • Choose Whole grains: Think beyond breads, sandwiches and ready to eat food products as they are the greatest source of hidden sodium so try to chuck off the demon by choosing whole grains and unprocessed food products.
  • Embrace healthy fats and oils: Choose healthy fats rather than salted butter, cheese, mayonnaise etc and say no to ‘Low-fat’ or ‘No-fat’ products like fat free mayo or salad dressings as they are loaded with excessive salt and sugar.
  • Retrain your taste buds: It is possible to shift our sense of taste but this process takes some time so try to make changes gradually and be consistent in your effort.
  • Scan the label: FSSAI recommends careful scanning of food labels to choose products with lowest amount of sodium per serving. Also pay attention to the serving size as they are often unrealistically small; and do not miss reading ingredients as the large chunk of sodium is hidden there.
  • Understand the terms: Try to understand the real meaning of different terms: High salt: More than 1.5 gm salt per 100 gram. Low Salt: Less than 0.3 gram salt per 100 gram. Reduced sodium: At least 25% less sodium than the regular product. (May not actually have low sodium). Lightly salted: At least 50% less sodium than the regular product. Low sodium: 140 mg of sodium or less per serving. Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less per serving. Sodium free/salt-free: Less than 5mg of sodium per serving. No-Salt-Added or Unsalted: No salt is added during processing but these products may  not be  sodium free unless stated.  (FDA Food Facts: Sodium in your diet)
  • Compare, compare and compare: Sodium levels vary widely for the same or similar item so before purchasing any food product compare different brands as there can be variation from brand to brand.
  • Spice it up: One of the easiest way to reduce the need for added salt is by using spices, dried and fresh herbs, ginger and garlic, citrus fruits, vinegar etc . They not only reduce the salt requirement but also enhance the flavour.
  • Add salt at the end: Adding salt too early while cooking leads to the breakdown of its sodium and chloride component, the sodium then gets absorbed into the food making it taste less salty because sodium and chloride together as a chemical compound create the distinctively salty taste. So you end up giving more salt to the end dish andincrease the total sodium in your food.
  • Kick the ‘auto-salt’ habit: Always taste your food before adding salt from the top and try not to use any table salt as well as salt shaker.
  • Ask for low sodium options in restaurants and try to balance sodium content of the meal by clubbing a sodium rich option with the one having less sodium.

It’s the hidden salt/ sodium in different forms which affects the most, so it is very important to gain right knowledge, rather than focusing on what companies wants us to read. FSSAI in India is making a tremendous effort by reinforcing strict norms to expose the hidden substances in food products and increase the awareness; we have to do our part by reading the labels carefully and choosing the right option for us.

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