Salt is one of the most ubiquitous food ingredients around. Those who think of salt only as something used to perk up flavor might wonder what could possibly give this ingredient the level of importance it has gained through the ages. In reality, there is much more to this crystalline cube than first meets the eye. Besides enhancing taste, salt has several other functions in food products. It acts as an antimicrobial or microbiological control agent. It contributes to certain chemical reactions that create a wide variety of food characteristics. Sometimes the terms "salt" and "sodium" are used interchangeably, but technically this is not correct. "Salt" is sodium chloride. By weight, it is 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. Most foods and tap water contain sodium and chloride. Sodium is an essential nutrient, a mineral that the body cannot manufacture itself. Because of sodium's importance to your body, the excretory and nervous systems guard against under-consumption of salt, which is a threat to your body's nerves and muscles. Other ions such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium are also very important. Concentrations of these ions are held in narrow ranges by the kidney. The association between eating salt and the risk of blood pressure increasing is difficult to quantify. Some people are sensitive to changes in salt intake whereas others can adjust so that blood pressure does not rise at all. Americans typically consume 4,000-8,000 mg each day, well above their daily needs. A goal for moderation for all adults, (including pregnancy and lactation) is approximately 2,400 mg of sodium per day.