The Truth About Salt In Your Food

It's everywhere. And we're supposed to eat less of it. By: Sidney Fry, MS, RD

The saltier the water, the saltier the pasta.
Photo: Randy Mayor

The saltier the water, the saltier the pasta.

Many chefs implore home cooks to heavily salt pasta cooking water ("make it as salty as the ocean," says one popular TV chef). Yes, salt does enhance the pasta's flavor. But so do the sauce and other ingredients, which may be salted, too. As our tests show, sodium-wary cooks need to moderate the hand that salts the water.

THE TEST: We boiled a pound each of dry spaghetti (sodium-free) in 4 quarts of water containing varying amounts of salt.

THE RESULTS: (per 6 ounces cooked pasta); 1 teaspoon salt (2,360mg sodium): 75mg sodium; 1 tablespoon salt (7,080mg sodium): 253mg sodium; 2 tablespoons salt (14,160mg sodium): 446mg sodium; ¼ cup salt (28,319mg sodium): 896mg sodium

Bottom line: It's not that pasta soaks up salt like a sponge: Only 3% was absorbed into each serving of pasta. But 3% of the sodium in ¼ cup is 896mg—nearly 40% of your 2,300mg daily limit. So reduce (don't eliminate) the salt in the water; save it for the sauce.

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