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Published on August 14, 2013

How much Sodium is too much?

By Alicia Heinrich, RD, LN
Clinical Dietitian
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital

Sodium is an essential nutrient for our bodies. It is needed only in relatively small amounts. In general, Americans consume too much sodium in their diets. To help put this in to some perspective, one teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states that the estimated average intake for all Americans ages 2 years and older is approximately 3,400 mg per day. This isn’t hard to do when 75% of sodium in our diet comes from processed, packaged, and canned foods. Take a moment and think about your typical day. Do you eat processed or packaged foods? If you have time take a look at the nutrition food label, how many milligrams of sodium are in just one serving?

The recommendations set forth for sodium intake by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 is to limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg. Individuals who have hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and people who are 51 years or older should reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day. So, where can I cut back on sodium in my diet to reach the recommended daily intake?  Below are a few tips to help reduce your sodium intake.

  • Learn how to read nutrition food labels and look for items that have a % Daily Value of 5% or less next to sodium.
  • Buy fresh, plan frozen, or canned with “no salt added” vegetables.
  • Take the salt shaker off of the table.
  • Rinse canned foods to remove some sodium.
  • Choose lower sodium foods or lower sodium versions of your favorite foods.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types.
  • Avoid snack foods high in salt content—chips, crackers, and pretzels.
  • Use fresh fruit and vegetables as often as possible.
  • Be cautious of marinades. One tablespoon of soy sauce has 1,000 mg of sodium.
  • Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking.
  • Choose unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.
  • Select unsalted or low-sodium fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
  • Limit smoked, cured, or processed beef, pork, or poultry.
  • Restaurant meals have hidden salt—limit fast food.