Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet: Sodium

Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet: Sodium

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.

Here's Why:

Sodium image 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.

Here's How:

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:

  • Beef broth
  • Ketchup
  • Commercial soups
  • French fries
  • Gravies
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Potato chips
  • Salted snack foods
  • Sandwich meats
  • Sauces
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tomato-based products

Sodium is also naturally in:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meats
  • Milk products
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Soft water

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:

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

Tips For Lowering Sodium Intake

Some tips to lower sodium intake are:

  • Read nutrition labels to find out how much sodium foods contain.
  • Slowly cut down on salt. Most people will get used to the change in taste.
  • Do not add salt from the salt shaker at the table. Or add less salt. People should taste food before putting salt on it. It may not be needed.
  • Substitute flavorful ingredients for salt in cooking, such as garlic, oregano, onion, lemon or lime juice, or other herbs, spices, and seasonings.
  • Choose fresh foods instead of processed foods. For example, select fresh or plain frozen veggies and meats instead of those canned with salt.
  • Look for low sodium, reduced sodium, or no salt versions of foods.
  • Cook and eat at home. Adjust recipes to slowly cut down on salt. If some of the ingredients contain salt, do not add more to the recipe.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt.
  • Order low-salt meals when dining out. Or, ask the chef not to use salt.
  • Limit condiments such as soy sauce, dill pickles, salad dressings, and packaged sauces.

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


Health Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2020.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2020.
Get the scoop on sodium and salt. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 31, 2020.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2020.
Most Americans should consume less sodium. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2020.
Sodium. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: 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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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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