Sodium

Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral that the body needs to function properly. But too much sodium can cause problems, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or heart failure, or make problems worse.

Salt is the most familiar source of sodium. Sodium is often hidden in foods that don't taste salty, such as cheddar cheese and processed foods. Sodium is also a major ingredient of monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium phosphate, and baking powder.

Most people get far more sodium than they need. Anything over 2,500 mg of sodium per day is probably too much.

If you want to cut back on the sodium in your diet:

  • Limit ready-mixed sauces and seasonings, frozen dinners, canned soups, and salad dressings, which usually contain a lot of sodium. Products labeled "low sodium" contain less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Eat lots of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. These foods have very little sodium.
  • Don't put the salt shaker on the table, or get a shaker that lets very little salt come out. Use light salt or salt substitute sparingly.
  • Always measure the salt in recipes and use half of what is called for.

Last Updated: February 6, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Diabetes Educator

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