Sodium in the water supply from a water softener: how much is in there and what it means to your diet.

by Diana M Published 7.25.2012

Drinking and thinking… It’s not as maudlin as it sounds.  I sat down with a cool glass of water and my thoughts drifted backwards.  It hit me that I’ve been talking about water for 20 years!  Immediately my thoughts went to how boring I must sound to my friends and I quickly decided to go back to pondering the depth of the water topics rather than a lot of self analysis (much safer ground!).Chart for converting hardness in GPG to Sodium PPM

How can there be enough about water to talk about it for 20 years? Some subjects are frequent, common topics and of course there are always new concerns cropping up regarding water quality.  One of them is sodium. 

Many conversations have revolved around the amount of sodium in the water supply from a water softener.  The fact is that most of the sodium is sent to the drain, not to the house.  Regardless of the water softener brand being used, there’s an easy calculation (see infographic to the right) to let a homeowner know how much sodium ends up in their water. There are also easy solutions for removing it, such as filtration.

So yes, I’m aware that there’s concern about sodium in softened water. But what about the sodium that occurs naturally in ground water or the sodium we take in from the foods we eat?  As an example, an apple contains one or two milligrams of sodium.  That’s pretty insignificant in the overall plan of less than 1500 mg per day. But the thought of trying to find all the sources of sodium makes my blood pressure go up even higher. Who knew apples had any sodium at all!?  On the other hand, sodium is required by the human body, so much so we have taste buds to detect it.  Ever crave potato chips?  I have found that peanut butter cups are the perfect blend of salt and sweet.

I live in a rural area of northern Ohio.  Salt is commonly used as a de-icer for the roads in the winter.  How much of this salt makes it to my well water supply?  Lake Erie is famous for the salt mine under the lake.  How much salt is naturally in the ground around my home?  I do have a water softener contributing some salt to my water supply and I like apples. When I stop to think about how much sodium is all around me, I guess it’s a good thing I’ve learned to cook using herbs as replacements for salt.

The Mayo Clinic has an excellent Q&A regarding the amount of sodium water softeners add. They state, “The majority of sodium in the average diet comes from table salt and processed foods. Thus, the best way to decrease the sodium in your diet is by cutting back on table salt and processed foods.”

Here’s a recipe for an herbal salt replacement that you can mix up and use on most anything.  Mix it up and keep it stored in an empty spice jar:

• 1 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper
• 1 Tbsp garlic powder
• 1 Tbsp onion powder
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
• 1 tsp dried savory
• 1 tsp ground mace
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tsp dried sage

This can be altered to your taste.  I leave out the mace, cayenne pepper and onion on chicken.  For beef, I usually leave out the sage and thyme.  Cloves and/or caraway go well with pork. These are all great to use in soups and stews in place of salt, as well. Play with it and make it your own. It's a fun way to eliminate sodium, that is, if you like to work in the kitchen.  I’m getting hungry...


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