Sodium is a mineral that the body needs in small amounts. It is found in foods mostly as sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is another name for table salt. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Most Americans consume 10 – 15 times more sodium than they need.
How Much Sodium Do I Need?
Most health experts agree that we should keep our sodium intake at about 2,400 mg or less. This is the amount of sodium in a little more than 1 teaspoon of salt.
Where Is Sodium Found in My Diet?
Sodium occurs naturally in many foods and is also added in processing. Most sodium added to foods comes from salt. Other ingredients and food additives contain sodium as well.
About 1/3 of the sodium in our diets is from salt we use in cooking or add at the table.
Foods high in sodium include: salty snacks and crackers, processed cheeses, salted, smoked, or cured meats, pickled or canned fish, canned soups and meats, pickles, sauerkraut and relishes.
Use these foods less often to cut down on sodium in your diet.
Food labels can help you keep your sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams a day. Most packaged foods must have nutrition and ingredient information on the label. The amount of sodium in a food must be included on the nutrition label. In the Nutrition Facts table, sodium is given in milligrams per serving and as a percent of the Daily Value.
The Daily Value for sodium is 2,400 mg. You should try to eat no more than 2,400 mg of sodium each day. The nutrition label lets you compare the amount of sodium in different brands of the same food. This is because serving sizes of a certain food are the same on all food labels.
Some suggestions to help you cut down on sodium are:
-Reduce the amount of salt you use at the table. Start by using only half what you normally use. Eventually replace the salt shaker with an herb shaker.
-Reduce your intake of salty foods.
-Reduce the amount of high sodium seasonings you use. These include soy sauce, steak sauce, garlic and onion salt, and monosodium glutamate. Try other flavors such as herbs, spices, fruit juices, wine and vinegar.
-Try the variety of unsalted food products available, though prices may be higher.
-When eating out, ask that your order be prepared without added salt.
Sources: University of Florida Extension
American Heart Association