Sodium Low-Down

Sodium is a mineral found naturally in foods and is also used as an additive in foods. It plays an important role in maintaining normal fluid balance in the body. The minimum requirement for sodium in the diet is about 500 mg per day. If you are generally healthy and under 51 years old, target no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you fall into one or more of the categories below, strive for a low-sodium diet of no more than 1,500 mg per day.

* People who are over 51 years old.

* People with high blood pressure or hypertension, or have ever been told that they have high blood pressure or hypertension.

* People who have diabetes, or who have ever been told that they are diabetic.

* People with chronic kidney disease.

* African American ethnicity

One teaspoon (6 g) of table salt = 2,300 mg of sodium!!

But a low-sodium diet means more than eliminating the salt shaker from the table! Large amounts of sodium can be found hidden in some of the foods you eat regularly. Some added forms are: monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate. These are ingredients in condiments and seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, steak & barbeque sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, and bouillon cubes. Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, ham, lunch meats, and canned soups and vegetables are all examples of foods that contain added sodium. Fast foods are generally very high in sodium. Also, processed foods such as potato chips, frozen dinners and cured meats have high sodium content.

Quick Tips you can implement immediately:

1. Learn to read food labels.

Use the label information on food packages to help you make the best low-sodium selections. When reading food labels, low sodium is defined as 140 mg of sodium per serving. Items with 400 mg or more of sodium are considered high in sodium.

2. Choose fresh instead of processed foods.

Choose fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. Choose fresh meats when possible. Some fresh meat has added sodium, so always check the label.

3. Be creative

Season your foods with spices, fresh herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper. Look for seasoning or spice blends with no salt.

4. Eat more home-cooked meals.

Foods cooked from scratch are naturally lower in sodium than most instant and boxed mixes.

5. Avoid convenience foods.

Those listed in the paragraph above (such as canned soups, entrees, vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal and puddings, and gravy sauce mixes, fast food).

For more information:

Food composition books are available which tell how much sodium is in food. Online sources such as also list amounts. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a well-known intervention to treat high blood pressure (

The best take away here today is to take the time to fully educate yourself. Eat real food, “fresh food” that has been minimally processed, and learn to read food labels. Nutrition labels and an ingredient list are required on most foods, so that you can make the best choices for a healthy lifestyle.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.