Why is salt referred to as "sodium" in nutrition facts (like on products) and similar documents in some parts of the world? Why is that nutrition facts labels in some parts of the world list salt while others list sodium (and some use "sodium/salt")?

Nutrition facts tables in some parts of the world use (their translation of) the word salt (also some English speaking areas), although there are cases of using sodium or even salt/sodium. For example, see these EU labels with German/French/GB English/Italian and German/English/French/Spanish/Italian/Dutch terms; and this Hungarian label.

So there is the linguistic part: is it just lax wording?

And the less linguistic part: Are they referring to different things each time?

Some research:

salt: a white crystalline substance that gives seawater its characteristic taste and is used for seasoning or preserving food.

table salt: salt suitable for sprinkling on food at meals.

sodium: the chemical element of atomic number 11, a soft silver-white reactive metal of the alkali metal group.


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    Because what matters for metabolism and health is the level of the element Sodium (Na) in the body. Salt is the most common way we ingest sodium, but not the only way. – John Lawler Apr 5 '16 at 16:29
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about medicine and health, and is unrelated to English as a language. – Dan Bron Apr 5 '16 at 16:49
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    @DavidBalažic The use of the same word is likely a decision of the food regulator— perhaps the word for elemental sodium is very unfamiliar in that locale, or doesn't fit on the label, or is used interchangeably and dependent on context. By the same token, the U.S. nutrition label specifies sugars when they could have said monosaccharides and disaccharides, and says fat not dietary fats. But if Wiktionary translations can be trusted, nearly every major language has separate words: halen vs, sodiwm, zout vs. natrium, тұз vs. натрий, नमक vs. क्षारातु, etc. – choster Apr 5 '16 at 17:37
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    @DanBron this doesn't really have anything to do with medicine (salt isn't medicine) or health (yes, salt is important to health, but that's not the crux of the question). OP is asking why, in this context, people tend to use a different term for salt. If you check the tour, questions about "Word choice and usage" are specifically on topic here. OP is asking about word choice. This should be reopened. – Ripped Off Apr 6 '16 at 12:40
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    DavidBalažic why one word rather than another is a sociological and cognitive question that is difficult to answer. The chemical/nutritive situation is clear, right? That's about as much explanation as is possible. Are you looking for something else, like 'sodium is easier to pronounce' or 'sodium is a formal synonym of salt' or 'the idiolect of the person writing those facts uses sodium instead of salt'? All plausible but not really the case. @JohnLawler's answer is as good as it gets for explanation. – Mitch Apr 7 '16 at 11:42

Salt doesn't just mean table salt, or sodium chloride. Potassium chloride is a salt as well. It's often used as a healthy substitute because people typically aren't overdosing on potassium the way they are on sodium.

Mixing any acid and base will produce a salt solution. Not always one that is healthy to drink.




  1. a white crystalline substance that gives seawater its characteristic taste and is used for seasoning or preserving food.

synonyms: sodium chloride, table salt, NaCl

"the potatoes need salt"


any chemical compound formed from the reaction of an acid with a base, with all or part of the hydrogen of the acid replaced by a metal or other cation.


  1. impregnated with, treated with, or tasting of salt.

"salt water"

synonyms: salty, salted, saline, briny, brackish

"salt water"

  1. (of a plant) growing on the coast or in salt marshes.


  1. season or preserve with salt.

"cook the carrots in boiling salted water"

  1. informal

fraudulently make (a mine) appear to be a paying one by placing rich ore in it.

google: salt definition


Table salt is sodium chloride [NaCl]. Many people with health concerns are told to limit, or at least be aware of, the amount of salt in their diets.

See: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002415.htm

  • 1
    From the page you link: Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, which is table salt. Milk, beets, and celery also naturally contain sodium. Drinking water, also contains sodium, but the amount depends on the source. Sodium is also added to many food products. Some of these added forms are monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate. These are in items such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, and bouillon cubes. – Hot Licks Apr 7 '16 at 20:29
  • While I am prepared to take my licks for what has become a poor answer, I will note that the question has morphed significantly since my entry. In terms of site etiquette, particularly since Hot Licks has commented, do I remove poor answers or do I continue to take my lumps as a caution and reminder? – Icy Apr 13 '16 at 16:35

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