The scoop on salt: You’re probably eating too much

It’s no secret a well-balanced diet has many health benefits. Information about the latest and greatest foods to eat is everywhere, from magazine covers to televisions shows to internet pop-up ads.

But where do you begin? One approach is to look at information that’s been around for some time and has scientific backing from credible sources. For example, limiting the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet has long been recommended.

While some sodium in your diet is essential, most Americans get far too much.

Current guidelines from the American Heart Association state adults should consume less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Other guidelines are similar. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans specify people of all ages who have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure or are African American, and all adults 51 years of age and older, should limit sodium to 1,500 mg per day. Less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day is advised for everyone else.

Eating a high sodium diet carries big health risks, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Peripheral vascular disease

The good news? You can take steps to limit your sodium intake in several simple ways:

Read labels

  • Most sodium in Americans’ diets is from processed foods. Check food labels on canned, frozen and packaged foods to learn how much sodium is in each serving. Measure your sodium intake by using this sodium tracker.
  • Check the ingredient list for the words “salt,” “sodium” or “soda,” or the symbol “Na.”  All forms of sodium count.
  • Read the labels of over-the-counter medications, too. Some contain sodium. Talk to the pharmacist to see if there are other options to treat your problem.

Dine out wisely

  • Ask your server about lower-sodium menu choices. Ask if your order can be prepared with less or no salt.
  • Try entrees that are baked, grilled or roasted. Choose fruits or vegetables without added salt as sides.
  • Use sauces, gravies and salad dressings sparingly, as they are often high in sodium.

Dine in wisely

  • When cooking, use herbs, pepper, citrus or other sodium-free spices to add flavor to your meals.
  • Note: sea salt has just as much sodium as table salt.
  • Use fresh or frozen vegetables, fruits and meats.
  • Take the salt shaker off the table.

Remember, less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day is the general recommendation — but certain health conditions affect how much sodium you need. If you have any health concerns, talk to your healthcare provider about your individual sodium requirements.

Find a doctor near you.

About the author

Sonya Flanders, RN, ACNS-BC
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Sonya is an adult clinical nurse specialist with Baylor and moved to Texas from Canada to become a Baylor nurse. She's focused on enhancing health education of older adults along with their families and caregivers.

3 thoughts on “The scoop on salt: You’re probably eating too much”

  1. According to the American Heart Association, the amount of sodium in sea salt is about equal to that of table salt by weight. 1/4 teaspoon of table salt contains around 575 mg of sodium, so 3/4 of a teaspoon of table salt is 1,725 mg. Because sea salt may not weigh the same amount per teaspoon as table salt, the amount of sodium in 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt might be a little different than table salt. The best way to know for sure how much sodium is in a particular brand of sea salt is to check the nutrition label on the product. Here’s a short article about sea salt versus table salt: http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/sea-salt-vs-table-salt/

  2. How many teaspoons of sea salt (or fractions there of) is 1,500 mg of sodium? Thanks…CEH

  3. Pingback: Low-sodium diet recommendations right for everyone? | Scrubbing In

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The scoop on salt: You’re probably eating too much