December 20, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: "No Salt Added"

I bought some soup [labeled] "No Salt Added."

[The nutrition label on the back] says each serving (there are two in each can) has 25 milligrams of sodium.

Shouldn't it be zero milligrams since there's no salt added?

-- Rebecca Alpert

(city withheld), GA

Welcome to the confusing world of food labeling.

For starters, many people mistakenly interchange the terms "salt" and "sodium," even though they mean different things.

Sodium is a mineral. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride (approximately 40% sodium and 60% chloride).

If you're talking numbers, this means that one gram (1,000 milligrams) of salt contains 400 milligrams of sodium and 600 milligrams of chloride.

A lot of people get confused when they read some literature calling for no more than 5 grams of salt a day, while other materials make reference to 2,400 milligrams of sodium.

Five grams of salt amount to roughly 2,000 milligrams of sodium (40 percent of 5,000), NOT 5,000 milligrams.

As for "no salt added" items containing sodium -- they are technically telling the truth.

"No salt added" simply means that sodium chloride is not tacked on. Ingredients naturally containing sodium can be included in these products.

Remember, many foods naturally contain tiny amounts of sodium. A cup of raw broccoli, for instance, provides 30 milligrams.

From a legal standpoint, products with a "no salt added" claim are required to also print "not a sodium-free food" in the front of their packaging (although this is usually done in tiny print.)

Considering that most soups pack in as much as 700 milligrams of sodium per serving, 25 milligrams is certainly very low!

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