Are You Getting Too Much Sodium?

While your body needs a small amount of sodium to function properly, most people consume far more than the recommended amounts. Find out more about how much sodium you need and how to reduce the excess from your diet.

How much sodium you need.

Sodium, in proper amounts, helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body, helps transmit nerve impulses, and helps influence the contraction and relaxation of muscles. However, most healthy adults shouldn’t have more than 2,400 milligrams per day of sodium. People who are over the age of 50, black, or who suffer from high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes may have even lower daily sodium restrictions.

How sodium gets into your diet.

Removing the salt shaker from your table may not be enough to get your sodium intake under control. Only about 11% of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from adding salt or other sodium-containing condiments to the foods we cook and eat. Most of the sodium in the average diet is found in foods that are processed or prepared. In fact, 77% of the salt in most diets is found in food long before it makes it to the stove or table.

How to cut sodium out of your diet.

  • Read food labels. Pay attention to the total amount of sodium listed on the nutrition facts label and look out for ingredients that contain sodium, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, and sodium nitrate or nitrite.
  • Eat more fresh foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Fresh meat, including fresh or frozen poultry, is also lower in sodium than processed meats like lunch meat, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and ham.
  • Use herbs and spices to flavor your food. Experiment with cooking with fresh or dried herbs, spices, citrus zest, and fruit juices instead of high-sodium flavorings.