Sodium is essential for life, but getting too much may be bad for your health. Depending on your specific health needs, dietary sodium recommendations range from 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day.
The Recommended Daily Sodium Intake
Your body can’t function without sodium; it’s an essential electrolyte that helps regulate blood pressure and fluids, and it’s necessary for the normal workings of your muscles and nerves. But you’re probably getting a lot more sodium in your diet than you need. Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day for adults helps to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack.
- While minimum amounts of sodium haven’t been set, your body may be able to function on as little as 200 to 500 milligrams a day, according to the World Health Organization.
- The National Heart Lung and Blood Association reports that 500 mg is a safe daily minimum intake of sodium. This amount will be enough to maintain the bodily functions that require sodium. In an average temperate climate, a normal adult may be able to thrive with as little as 115 mg of sodium each day.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that individuals consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, and that certain groups limit intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.
What Happens if You Get Too Much Sodium
Consuming too much sodium causes fluid retention in some people. The extra fluid strains the heart and causes an increase in blood pressure. If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure damages your arteries and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction and vision loss. Getting too much dietary sodium is also a risk factor for stomach cancer and osteoporosis.
Sodium in Salt:
1500 mg of sodium amounts to 0.75 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day, while 2300 mg amounts to one teaspoon or 6 grams of salt per day. Most people today are eating much more than that. The average intake of sodium is about 3400 mg, most of it coming from processed foods.
High Sodium Foods:
- too much salt
- frozen foods
- ready to eat cereals
- vegetable juices
- canned vegetables
- packed processed meats
- marinades and flavorings
- all sauces
- salted nuts and snacks
- pre packed foods
How to Use the Nutrition Facts Label to Limit Sodium
If you’re trying to limit your sodium intake, the nutrition facts label is a good place to start. A food that contains 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving is considered a low-sodium food. A food item can’t be labeled healthy if it has more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving, according to the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. A meal can’t have more than 600 milligrams per serving. Paying attention to the amount of sodium found in the food you eat may help you stay within the recommended levels.
How to Reduce Sodium Intake
An easy way to limit sodium intake, and promote better health, is filling your diet with whole and minimally-processed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meat, dried beans and milk. Even though many of these foods naturally contain some sodium, the amount is minimal compared to that found in processed foods. For example, half a cup of frozen peas has almost 200 milligrams less sodium than the same size serving of canned peas.
Add flavor using herbs and spices, such as garlic, cinnamon, oregano and basil, instead of salt and high-sodium condiments. Lemon juice, vinegar and most hot sauces also add a little kick without the extra sodium. Avoid using salt during cooking, and if you must use it, just sprinkle on a few grains at the table.