by Karen Schroeder Kassel, MS, RD, MEd
Sodium, one of the components of salt, is a mineral that is found in every cell of the body, with greatest concentrations in the fluid outside and in between cells. Sodium regulates the water content inside and outside our cells.
Sodium helps with the performance of many functions in the body. Some of them include:
It is recommended that people get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Certain adults should reduce intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This includes:
The Institute of Medicine has set Adequate Intake (AI) levels for sodium. This AI is the recommended daily average intake for healthy and moderately active people.
Too Little Sodium
Since the typical American diet is rich in sodium, deficiencies are uncommon in healthy people.
A sodium deficiency may accompany extreme body fluid loss, such as in the case of starvation, profuse sweating, or excess vomiting or diarrhea. It may also accompany kidney failure, heart failure, chronic liver disease, or use of some diuretics.
Too Much Sodium
High sodium intakes have been correlated with elevated blood pressure and edema. Increasing dietary salt intake might also raise the risk of developing kidney stones.
Major Food Sources
Table salt is the major source of dietary sodium—about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sodium we consume is added during cooking or at the table. Fast foods and commercially processed foods, which are canned, frozen, bagged, boxed, or instant, also add a significant amount of sodium to the typical American diet. These include:
Sodium occurs naturally in:
Reading Food Labels
All food products contain a Nutrition Facts label, which states a food's sodium content. The following terms are also used on food packaging:
Tips for Lowering Your Sodium Intake
Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Updated December 2015. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Updated January 15, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Other dietary components. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers-other-dietary-components. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Salt. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Updated December 28, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium and salt. American Heart Association website. Available at:
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Updated October 3, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium (chloride). Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at:
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Accessed December 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium chloride. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T356397/Sodium-Chloride. Updated February 6, 2017 Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium in your diet: using the nutrition facts label to reduce your intake. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm315393.htm. Updated June 2, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Tips to eat less salt and sodium. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/healthdisp/pdf/tipsheets/Tips-to-Eat-Less-Salt-and-Sodium.pdf. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 2/24/2017
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