Fast facts about salt and sodium in the diet

Fast facts about salt and sodium in the diet

7 Questions answered about salt and sodium


What is sodium versus salt? 

  • Sodium is naturally occurring mineral that combines with chloride to form table salt (and is also what makes the ocean salty!)  
  • On food labels "sodium" refers to the amount of sodium chloride (table salt) that the food item contains. 

Why do we need to eat salt? 

  • Our bodies need sodium for common functions: 
    • regulating body fluids going in and out of cells
    • regulating blood pressure
    •  nerve transmission and muscle relaxation in all muscles including the heart 

What foods contain salt? 

  • Packaged foods (chips, crackers)
  • Frozen foods (frozen dinners) 
  • Fast Food (and restaurants)
  • Fish 
  • Cheese 
  • Deli/ smoked/ cured meats 
  • Adding table salt to meals 

How much sodium do we need? What are the recommendations for salt intake? 

  • Our bodies only need 1/10 of a teaspoon a day (1/2 gram) 
  • The US Dietary Guidelines recommend 1500 milligrams (mgs) or less of sodium per day for adults 
  • Children ages 1 to 5 need only 300 mg a day 

How much sodium on average to we get?  

  • Many Americans get 20 to 30 times more salt in their diet than the body needs
  • The average adult consumes approximately 7,000 milligrams per day (4 times more than the daily recommendation!) 
  • The average child eats 3,000 milligrams per day (10 times more than the daily recommendation!) 

What happens if we eat too much salt? 

  • High salt diets can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) which can damage your heart and arteries 
  • Children who eat high sodium diets are more at risk for developing hypertension later in life  

How can I  make smart salt choices? 

  • Remember: Salt is salt. Salts from various parts of the world and seas are not healthier and still contain sodium! 
  • Read food labels and choose "low sodium" foods 
  • Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods such as broccoli, yogurt, tofu, etc. to maintain a healthy blood pressure 
  • Flavor your foods with plenty of salt free spices and herbs

Adapted from Nurturing with Nutrition by Dr. Melanie Bezarte and Lucille Beseler, RDN