Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is known by many names. You may already know what this ingredient is, and what it’s used for--or, you may be stumped by this needlessly technical sounding chemical name.

Either way, you might be surprised to learn just how many places it’s hiding in the foods you eat every day! Read on to learn more and hopefully demystify this ingredient.

What Is It?

Sodium chloride [1] is the chemical name for what we refer to as salt, table salt, or sea salt. Salt can be created in a lab as the result of the reaction between sodium and chlorine (table salt) or it can be taken from the earth. Naturally occurring salt is either taken from salty water (sea salt), or mined from the ground.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Both sodium and chloride are necessary nutrients [2] for human. This means we need to get them from our diet in order to stay health. Chloride is primarily used by the digestive system in the formation of hydrochloric acid.

Hydrochloric acid is a powerful acid that is introduced to our stomach to help us break down the food we eat. Chloride also works to help balance fluid levels in the body. Sodium also affects our body’s fluid levels, primarily by causing the body to retain water.

Sodium also increases your blood pressure by signaling the blood vessels to constrict, helps your nerves talk to each other, is necessary for muscles to stop the contraction process, and more. Salt is a convenient way for humans to get the sodium and chloride they need--mostly because it simply tastes good on just about everything.

Salt is used as a preservative and flavor enhancer in many foods. It is also commonly fortified with iodine, another essential nutrient that we cannot get very many places in our diet.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Salt is part of our tears, blood, and most importantly: our sweat. Anyone who spends a lot of time in the gym is going to get sweaty. This is a sign of a good workout for many, and can actually help you feel more accomplished when it comes to your fitness regime. However, it also dehydrates you.

You lose water, yes. You also lose important electrolytes [3], of which sodium is one. This is why on occasion after an intense workout you may have drank enough water to rehydrate, but you still don’t feel quite right. That is your body telling you that you’ve lost some electrolytes and need to replace them.

In addition to post- workout water, consuming something with even a small amount of sodium chloride in it will help start replenishing your electrolytes and make sure that your workouts only make you feel better and not worse.

What Foods Contain It?

Salt is in almost every type of processed food. Used as a curing agent, it is found in beef jerky, as well as canned meats. You can find it in canned vegetables, soups, sauces, baking mixes, cookies, baked goods, chips, certain flavored beverages, ice get the idea.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

There is no daily recommended allowance for sodium chloride. However, there are individual recommendation for the daily consumption of sodium and the daily consumption of chloride.

This will vary based on age, but most adult will need 2,300mg of sodium daily and 2.3mg of chloride daily. That amount of sodium is nearly equivalent to only a teaspoon of salt.

With the standard American diet relying so heavily on processed foods that are flush with sodium chloride added in, people have more problems avoiding salt than getting enough of it.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Sodium chloride consumption can become a problem if you have too much of it on a regular basis. This is usually the culprit behind high blood pressure, obesity, and increased risk of heart disease.

In fact, the sodium in sodium chloride is known as the silent killer because it can have so many negative effect on your health at large doses, and you typically do not feel ill.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

There is no particular risks associated with consuming too little sodium chloride, as long as you ensure you are meeting your daily recommended amount of sodium and of chloride, through other dietary sources.

If you are one of the people struggling with hypertension or another disease that encourages you to avoid salt as much as possible, it may be quite difficult to do. Even foods that tout themselves as being low sodium are all too frequently low in comparison with their competitors, but still contain more salt than you should be having in one meal.

If your aim is to avoid sodium chloride in your food, in may be time to look at a more wholesome diet free of processed foods.


[1] Wikipedia. Sodium Chloride., 2017.

[2] Linus Pauling Institute. Sodium (Chloride). Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, 2016.

[3] Wikipedia. Electrolyte. 2017.