Salt or sodium chloride

Salt, which consists almost entirely of sodium chloride, is necessary for the functioning of the body. However, consuming too much of it can lead to the development of certain diseases. Find out which foods are high in salt and read our recommendations for limiting your intake.

What is salt made of?

Salt consists almost entirely of sodium chloride (NaCl). It also contains small amounts of other minerals. It can be enriched with iodine or fluoride.

What are the main dietary sources of salt?

The main dietary sources of sodium are table salt, condiments and sauces, as well as processed meats and cheese.

The list of foods with a high salt content can be found in the Ciqual table of nutritional composition of foods.

Why is salt important to health?

Sodium plays a key role in maintaining water balance between the inside and outside of cells. This maintenance is essential for nerve transmission and muscle contractions. It also plays an important part in the intestinal absorption of chlorine, amino acids, glucose and water, and in their reabsorption by the kidneys.

Sodium is mainly eliminated through urine and sweat.

What are the health risks in the event of a deficiency?

Severe sodium deficiency is accompanied by the development of cerebral oedema, causing malaise, nausea, loss of consciousness and convulsions.

What are the health risks in the event of excessive intake?

Excessive salt consumption is now recognised as a risk factor for high blood pressure and, consequently, for cardiovascular disease.

What can you do to limit salt consumption?

The total amount of salt consumed by the French population is well above the public health recommendations.

Given the dietary habits in France, most of the salt consumed comes from bread and rusks, followed by processed meats, condiments and sauces, ready-to-eat meals, cheeses, soups, quiches and pizzas.

Consumers are advised to:

  • limit their consumption of the saltiest foods,
  • become familiar with the composition of foods by reading the labels,
  • limit the addition of salt when preparing and serving meals.