Lennie - About.com User
Sodium in Food PreservationSalt has been used as a preservative for centuries. The sodium and chloride ions reduce the water activity of foods, which is the amount of water that's available to support bacteria growth or to allow other chemical reactions to take place. Salt might also draw water out of any bacteria present, which kills them or at least slows them down quite a bit. Salt also enhances fermentation, which is another technique for preserving foods.
Salt is an effective preservative on it's own, but sometimes additional preservatives are be necessary. Some preservatives work like salt to change the water activity, but others work by altering the chemical reactions that would normally result in spoiled foods and rancid fats. Sodium-containing preservatives include:
- disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid
- sodium acetate
- sodium ascorbate
- sodium benzoate
- sodium deydroacetate
- sodium diacetate
- sodium erythorbate
- sodium lactate
- sodium nitrate
- sodium nitrite
- sodium phosphates
- sodium propionate
- sodium sufite
Sodium as a Flavor EnhancerSalt is used as a flavor enhancer. You probably use it in your cooking or at the table. Fortunately that only accounts for a small amount of the typical daily intake of sodium, less than 25 percent. In fact, you can use table salt and still stay under the recommended daily sodium intake of 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams as long as you avoid other sodium-containing ingredients.
Some flavorings contain large amounts of sodium. Monosodium glutamate strengthens your perception of the umami flavor found in savory foods like meat and fish. Sodium acetate is another flavor enhancer that is only slightly salty in flavor, but it appears to suppress bitter flavors in foods so it enhances the perception of sweet flavors. Soy sauce is also used as a flavor-enhancing ingredient, and it's extremely high in sodium.
Watching Your Sodium IntakeLook for sodium on the Nutrition Facts labels (even if the front of the package says "reduced sodium"), and remember the number listed is milligrams per serving. If you eat a whole can of chicken soup, you're really eating two or three servings, so make sure you account for all the sodium. Some common sources of dietary sodium are:
- baked goods (including breads and buns)
- lunch meats, bacon and sausage
- pasta meals like mac and cheese or spaghetti in a can
- snack foods
Additional Sodium Cutting Tips
- Choose fresh whole foods like fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and fresh meats, seafood and poultry.
- Buy frozen fruits and vegetables that are low in sodium (unless they also contain added sauces or toppings).
- Be careful with other frozen foods like pizzas and frozen dinners, they're usually high in sodium too.
- Rinse your canned vegetables to remove some (but not all) of the sodium.
American Heart Association. "Processed Foods: Where Is All That Salt Coming From?" Accessed July 1, 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Processed-Foods-Where-is-all-that-salt-coming-from_UCM_426950_Article.jsp.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "World Salt Awareness Week Focuses on Link between Sodium and Stroke." Accessed July 1, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sodium/ .
Institute of Medicine Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake. "Preservation and Physical Property Roles of Sodium in Foods." Accessed July 1, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50952/.
Institute of Medicine Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake. "Taste and Flavor Roles of Sodium in Foods: A Unique Challenge to Reducing Sodium Intake." Accessed July 1, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50958/.
Institute of Medicine. "Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water." Accessed July 1, 2012. http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/DRI_Electrolytes_Water.pdf.