The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
High sodium intake can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Some people may be more sensitive to salt than others, but most Americans are still getting much more sodium in their diets then they need. There is evidence that if adults eat less sodium, their blood pressure decreases.
Since it is difficult to know who among us will benefit most from less salt, most organizations recommend that we all limit our salt intake. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, adults should limit their salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day. And those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, as well as African Americans and adults 51 years or older should limit their sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
A major study in this area is DASH, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat helped lower blood pressure. This is now known as the DASH diet. The second phase of the study found further reductions in blood pressure when the DASH diet was combined with a sodium intake of no more than 2,300 mg per day.
Sodium is found in many foods. Some are obvious, but others may surprise you.
Table salt, also known as sodium chloride, 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, such as canned, frozen, and 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 in sodium content from original product|
|Light||Sodium is reduced by at least 50% per serving|
|Unsalted, no salt added, without added salt||Processed without salt when salt normally would be used in processing|
Follow these tips to help lower your sodium intake:
Making dietary changes takes time, so go slowly and allow your taste buds to adjust.
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 3, 2013. Accessed February 19, 2015.
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 February 19, 2015.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 29, 2015. Accessed February 19, 2015.
Most Americans should consume less sodium. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Updated September 9, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2015.
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. Published June 2011. Accessed February 19, 2015.
Sodium and salt. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sodium-Salt-or-Sodium-Chloride_UCM_303290_Article.jsp. Updated January 12, 2015. Accessed February 19, 2015.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, 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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