Skip to main content


By: on

The average sodium intake is 3,440 mg each day. This is well over the recommended amount of 2300 mg per day. The recommended amount of 2300 mg converts to 1 teaspoon of sodium or 6 grams of salt each day.By contrast, 3,440 mg of sodium per day converts to 1.5 teaspoons of sodium, or 8.35 grams of salt. Needless to say, sodium is considered an overconsumed nutrient of concern for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans to decrease sodium intake in their diet. With the rise in obesity and sodium intake, researchers found a direct association between caloric intake and sodium consumption. The higher the food intake, the higher the sodium content of the diet (1).


Sodium is mainly consumed as a part of salt, or sodium chloride. Other types of sodium are in the form of sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, and sodium glutamate. Sodium is an electrolyte found primarily in the extracellular fluid. Sodium functions with potassium in the body to maintain membrane potential. Additionally, sodium helps maintain blood volume and blood pressure (2). Sodium is lost in sweat, thus those who experience profuse sweating from the sun or a hard workout might need higher than the recommended amount of sodium.

Sodium also has a myriad of functions in prepared foods. In foods, sodium is added to enhance flavor, increase shelf life, and improve texture of the food item. Sodium is found in large amounts in pre-packaged foods such as frozen pizza, soup, frozen pasta meals, and processed meats. There is little sodium found in fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, oats, dried beans, fish, and eggs.




Sodium (mg)

Hot dog

1 hot dog ( 52 g)

567 mg

Full fat cheese

1 oz.

174 mg


1 slice

565 mg

Soup, canned

1 cup

410 mg


About one-half of individuals experience salt sensitivity, which is an increase in blood pressure in Table Salt Sodiumresponse to a meal or diet high in sodium. Sodium in blood vessels pulls more water into the blood vessels. This increases the total blood volume, which then increases blood pressure. However, it should be noted that not all individuals are salt sensitive. Those who do not experience salt sensitivity will not have an increase in blood pressure in response to a high salt meal (3). The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is recommended to individuals with hypertension. This diet is low in sodium and high in potassium with the goal of decreasing blood pressure. There are two sodium levels that once can follow in the DASH diet 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg of sodium. 


Food labels contain different sodium claims which can be confounding to the consumer. Let’s distinguish these sodium food claims.

  • Reduced sodium – the level of sodium is decreased by 25%
  • Low sodium- there are 140 mg of sodium or less for each serving
  • Very low sodium- there are 35 mg of sodium or less for each serving
  • Sodium free – there are 5 mg of sodium or less for each serving
  • No salt added- the product is made without added salt; however, sodium could still be in a portion of the natural food.


1. Restaurants and fast food chains use a high amount of sodium for flavor and preservation. Cooking the same food item at home greatly reduces the sodium content.

2. Try preparing food with less added salt/sodium. Use fresh herbs or spices to flavor food instead of salt. 

3. Canned foods contain high sodium for preservation. Look at nutrition labels to find the sodium content. Also, look for low sodium or salt free canned goods. 

4. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. 

5. For dairy, cheese contains more sodium than yogurt and milk. To reduce sodium content of the diet, eat low fat or fat free yogurt and milk in place of cheese.


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

2. Sodium (Chloride). Linus Pauling Institute. Published April 23, 2014. Accessed January 3, 2018.

3. Stipanuk , M. H., & Caudill, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. St. Louis , MO : Elseiver Saunders Co.

Get the best of The Watson delivered to your inbox