How Much Should I Have?
A little bit is good. Our bodies use sodium to maintain fluid balance, regulate muscle contractions and transmit nerve impulses. We need approximately 500 mg per day to support these functions.
Get too much sodium, and your body is likely to hold onto extra fluids. This increases the volume of your blood which creates added stress on your arteries and heart and can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys.
According to the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines, adults should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This is the equivalent of 1 tsp of salt. If you have hypertension or prehypertension, the recommendation is even lower, at 1,500 mg per day. Most American adults consume much more than that – about 3,400 mg ( or 1 ½ tsps) per day!
Where Does it Come From?
Most of our sodium does not come from the salt shaker. About 3/4 of our daily sodium intake usually comes from processed foods and/or restaurant food.
Some of the highest food sources of sodium are:
- Canned foods – such as soups, vegetables, beans and tuna
- Processed meats – such as deli meats, sausage, bacon, and ham
- Condiments – such as soy sauce, ketchup and salad dressings
- Frozen and boxed mixes – such as macaroni and cheese, other pastas, instant potatoes and rice dishes
- Frozen dinners or vegetables with sauces
- Snack foods – such as chips, pretzels, crackers, popcorn and seasoned nuts
- Pickled foods
- Breads and rolls
How Do I Reduce It?
Try these three easy tips to reduce your sodium intake…
- Choose Fresh Foods
Choose fresh foods rather than canned, processed or “convenience” foods. Most of the sodium in our diets is added during the processing of foods. Prepare your own food whenever you can – to control the amount of sodium you are adding. Limit packaged mixes, sauces and instant foods. If you are dining out, ask for your meal to be prepared without added salt and you can request to have dressings and sauces to be served on the side, so you can control how much you add.
- Skip the Salt Shaker
Often we salt our foods out of habit and you may have even acquired a taste for very salty foods. Try to cut down on the amount of salt you add. Take the salt shaker off the table. Learn to appreciate the flavor of your foods with less salt or no salt and experiment with other seasonings. Try fresh herbs, spices, citrus and vinegar to enhance the flavors of your food.
Check out these great seasoning ideas: http://heartbright.org/sodium.pdf
- Check Your Labels
When you do buy packaged foods, check the label and try to choose lower sodium options. When comparing products, look at the mg of sodium on the nutrition facts label.
It also helps to “learn the lingo” and look for the following claims on your labels:
- Sodium free/Salt free – Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
- Very Low Sodium – 35 mg or less of sodium per serving.
- Low Sodium – 140 mg of sodium (or less) per serving.
- Reduced Sodium or Less Sodium – Contains at least 25% less sodium than the traditional product.
- Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted – Contains at least 50% less sodium than the traditional product.
- Unsalted or No Salt Added – No salt has been added during processing, but the product may still contain some salt naturally.
Bonus Tip: Still reading? You deserve a bonus tip: If you are eating canned vegetables, beans or other solid canned foods, you can reduce the sodium content by rinsing them before you eat them!
If you want even more information on sodium and salt, you can check out this great resource from the American Heart Association: