Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet: Sodium
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. However, most adults should try to limit sodium to 1,500 mg per day.
Too much sodium can raise the risk of high blood pressure. This is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Some people may be more sensitive to salt than others, but most Americans are still getting more sodium than they need. Eating less sodium can help lower blood pressure. It can also lower the risk of worsening health problems in people with diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study found that a diet rich in fruits, veggies, 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 that blood pressure was lowered even more 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. It is not always easy to know which ones have it.
Major Food Sources
Table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a major source of dietary sodium. About one-third to one-half of the sodium we consume is added during cooking or at the table.
Fast foods and processed foods also add a lot of sodium to the American diet. It can be found in things like:
Sodium is also naturally in:
Reading Food Labels
All food products have a Nutrition Facts label. It will list a food's sodium content. These terms are also used on food packaging:
Tips For Lowering Sodium Intake
Some tips to lower sodium intake are:
It takes time to make changes to a person's diet. Go slowly and give taste buds time 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: https://www.dynamed.com/management/dash-diet. Accessed August 31, 2020.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines. Accessed August 31, 2020.
Get the scoop on sodium and salt. American Heart Association website. Available at:
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Accessed August 31, 2020.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Accessed August 31, 2020.
Most Americans should consume less sodium. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Accessed August 31, 2020.
Sodium. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/sodium. Accessed August 31, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 3/2/2021
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