Sodium: Limit Your Intake

Sodium is a mineral widely found in nature. It is needed to keep the body functioning normally. Many health experts, however, feel that too much sodium in the diet can be harmful, especially if you have hypertension (high blood pressure) or retain fluid.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is published every five years by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 2005 Guidelines recommend limiting daily sodium intake to 2300 milligrams (mg.) per day -- the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt.

The 2010 Guidelines report: "On average, the higher an individual's salt (sodium chloride) intake, the higher an individual's blood pressure. Nearly all Americans consume substantially more salt than they need. Decreasing salt intake is advisable to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure in the normal range reduces an individual's risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease."

Eat a healthy diet, and limit your sodium intake. These guidelines can help you manage your sodium consumption:

  • Eat three meals each day; do not skip meals
  • Choose fresh, lean meat, fish and poultry in place of processed meats
  • Cook with only a small amount of added salt, or none at all
  • Add little or no salt to food at the table
  • Flavor food with herbs, spices and lemon juice
  • Eat five or more servings of fruit and/or vegetables each day
  • Eat six or more servings of breads, cereals or grains each day
  • Read labels carefully to determine the amount of sodium in your food

Limit or avoid high-sodium foods and seasonings, such as:

  • Bacon
  • Bouillon
  • Canned soups
  • Frozen dinners (read labels)
  • Ham
  • Ham hocks
  • Hot dogs
  • Luncheon meats
  • Packaged entrees and side dishes, such as Rice-A-Roni, macaroni and cheese dinner, Ramen noodles (read labels)
  • Pickles
  • Salt
  • Salt pork
  • Salted crackers
  • Salted snack foods
  • Salted spices
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sausage
  • Soy sauce
  • Vegetable juice

The information on this page was compiled by registered dietitians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. This material provides general information only. It should not be used in place of the advice, instructions, or treatment given by your doctor or other health care professional.