Salt is used to preserve food and to enhance its taste. There are many different types of salt. Cooking salt or table salt is a combination of the minerals sodium and chloride. A gram of salt contains 400 mg sodium and 600 mg chloride. Sodium is both an electrolyte and mineral. It helps keep the water and electrolyte balance of the body. Sodium is also important for nerves and muscles to function well. The blood and lymph stream have most of the sodium in the body.
Most foods contain sodium naturally or added during cooking. The common food sources of sodium are table salt, baking soda, animal products (meat, milk and eggs) and preserves (pickles) & processed foods. Many medicines and other products also have sodium in them.
Sodium levels in the body are partly controlled by a hormone called aldosterone that tells the kidneys when to hold sodium in the body instead of passing it in the urine. Small amounts of sodium are also lost through the skin when you sweat.
Most people consume a lot of salt, much more than what is required by the body. This could be because they add a lot of salt to their food to enhance the taste or because they consume a lot of processed and instant foods.
A bowl of high fibre cereal with low-fat milk and fruit is a healthy way to start the day. However, check the package for sodium content too or your healthy meal could turn out to have high sodium. To avoid sodium in cereal, look for shredded wheat brands and plain oatmeal.