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October 28, 2021

The facts about salt: how much do we really need?

Healthy Eating Sodium

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Purchased -  Salt shaker on table arto_canon/

Most Americans have too much salt in their diet. That’s problematic, as high-salt diets are often linked to high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. That doesn’t mean that you should cut out salt altogether though — your body requires the sodium in salt for important functions such as controlling blood pressure, nerve and muscle function, and regulating blood volume.

As with most things in your diet, the key to salt is moderation. Consuming it in a balanced way will provide your body with the nutrients it needs without overdoing it.

Salt vs. sodium

You probably equate salt in your diet with the white crystals you sprinkle on top of a meal. That delicious condiment is actually composed of two minerals: sodium and chloride. It’s the sodium in table salt that your body needs to function, although it’s also added to many other foods as well such as soy sauce and processed foods.

Your kidneys work to process all that salt you consume and use the sodium in it to regulate fluids in your body. When there’s too much sodium in your diet, your kidneys can’t keep up, resulting in buildups in your blood that can damage your health.

How much sodium is too much?

A healthy adult should consumer between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. However, certain health conditions can reduce that limit significantly. Those with high blood pressure should top out at 1,500 milligrams, and those with health conditions such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease may need even lower amounts. Consult your doctor on the optimal amount of sodium for your diet.

Regulating sodium in your diet

Table salt is about 40 percent sodium, which means one teaspoon is enough to hit your daily limit. But before you start sprinkling that teaspoon on your dinner with abandon, remember that there’s probably sodium hidden in many other parts of your diet. The best thing you can do is carefully read the nutrition labels on your food to understand how much sodium is going into your body each day.

As a general rule of thumb, the foods with highest sodium contents are fast foods, processed packaged foods (like cakes and cookies), and processed meats like bacon or sausage. Keeping those limited to small amounts in your diet will help cut down on the amount of sodium you’re consuming.

Seek out foods that are fresh, including meat, fruit and vegetables, and packaged foods labeled as low sodium, sodium-free, no salt added, or unsalted. You can also work to actively season your food with alternatives to table salt, such as pepper or herbs, that can leave your food flavorful but without too much sodium for your body to process. Finally, there are salt substitutes available, but you should speak to your health care provider before working them into your diet.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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