Sodium, one of the components of salt, is a mineral that is found in every cell of the body, with greatest concentrations in the fluid outside and in between cells. Sodium regulates the water content inside and outside our cells.
Sodium performs many functions in the body. Some of them include:
It is recommended that people get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Certain adults should reduce intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This includes:
The Institute of Medicine has set Adequate Intake (AI) levels for sodium. This AI is the recommended daily average intake for healthy and moderately active people.
Adequate Intake (AI)
|Children: 1-3 years||1,000 mg|
|Children: 4-8 years||1,200 mg|
|Children: 9-18 years||1,500 mg|
|Adults: 19-50 years||1,500 mg|
|Adults 51-70 years||1,300 mg|
|Adults 71 years and older||1,200 mg|
Since the typical American diet is rich in sodium, deficiencies are uncommon in healthy people.
A sodium deficiency may accompany extreme body fluid loss, such as in the case of starvation, profuse sweating, or excess vomiting or diarrhea.
High sodium intakes have been correlated with elevated blood pressure and edema. Increasing dietary salt intake might also raise the risk of developing kidney stones.
Table salt is the major source of dietary sodium—about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sodium we consume is added during cooking or at the table. Fast foods and commercially processed foods, which are canned, frozen, bagged, boxed, or instant, also add a significant amount of sodium to the typical American diet. These include:
Sodium occurs naturally in:
All food products contain a Nutrition Facts label, which states a food's sodium content. The following terms are also used on food packaging:
|Food Label Term||Meaning|
|Sodium free||Less than 5 mg/serving|
|Very low sodium||35 mg or less/serving|
|Low sodium||140 mg or less/serving|
|Reduced sodium||25% reduction per serving in sodium content from original product|
|Unsalted, no salt added, without added salt||Processed without salt when salt normally would be used in processing|
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Choose My Plate
Dietitians of Canada
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Food salt & health. Salt Institute website. Available at: http://www.saltinstitute.org/Issues-in-focus/Food-salt-health. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Reduce salt and sodium in your diet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/sodium/sodium.htm. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Salt. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Updated December 14, 2012. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Salt and sodium. 10 tips to help you cut back. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet14SaltAndSodium.pdf. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Sodium. Health Vitamins Guide website. Available at: http://www.healthvitaminsguide.com/minerals/sodium.htm. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Sodium (salt or sodium chloride). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sodium-Salt-or-Sodium-Chloride_UCM_303290_Article.jsp. Updated March 5, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Sodium Chloride. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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