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Nutrition Notes

Sodium and salt: how much is right for me?

When you think of sodium, does salt come to mind? Sodium is a mineral our bodies need in small amounts for many functions; generally it comes from our food. The sodium in foods is mostly sodium chloride, or table salt, but foods can also contain sodium naturally. Salt may preserve our foods and improve texture, but most often it is used to make foods more flavorful.

Research suggests there’s a link between high sodium intake and medical conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Has your doctor told you to “stay away from salt” or follow a low-sodium diet? If the answer is yes, it is important that he clarifies how much sodium is acceptable for you. There is a difference between a no-salt, low-salt, or no-added-salt diet. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. The average consumption is often much higher. If your doctor has recommended limiting your sodium to 2,000 mg per day, what does this mean for you?

The salt you use at the dinner table is often not your biggest source of sodium; however, one teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. Often the major source of the sodium consumed comes from processed foods, grains, and meat. Think about what you eat and be aware of your total sodium consumption for the entire day.

Did you know one slice of bread contains 80 to 250 mg of sodium; a slice of frozen pizza, 500+ mg sodium; half cup canned soup, up to 900 mg of sodium?

Tips for managing your sodium consumption:

  • Learn to read labels on foods; select items with less sodium.
  • Start your day with lower-sodium cereals and breads.
  • Choose fresh, frozen, or canned items without added salt.
  • Limit salted snacks, bacon, luncheon meats, hot dogs, diet soda, and packaged seasonings.
  • Avoid or reduce salting food during cooking.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and oatmeal without salt; avoid instant or flavored mixes.
  • Limit ketchup, pickles, soy sauce, and sauces containing salt.
  • Use herbs, no-salt seasoning blends, spices, flavored vinegars, or lemon or lime juice for seasoning. Try growing fresh herbs!
  • Choose fruit for snacks as they often don’t contain sodium.

LifePath offers meals at congregate sites and home-delivered meals planned by a licensed dietitian with sodium content of each item posted on monthly menus. Any menu item 500 mg of sodium or higher is marked on the menu, with no more than two high-sodium days per month. If this is your main meal of the day, you are likely not eating too much sodium, and reading food labels will help you determine what to eat for the rest of the day.

Think about what you eat, try new herbs and spices, and enjoy. Bon Appétit!