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Understanding Salt/Sodium

Contact the Healthiest Weight Florida Program

  •  850-245-4100
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    Mailing Address

    Division of Community Health Promotion 

    4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin A13 

    Tallahassee FL 32399 

Most Americans should consume less sodium.  The average person eats about 3,000 to 3,600 mg of sodium, while the recommended amount is much less.

Sodium Guidelines

Most of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt, and the vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. Too much sodium is bad for your health. It can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death in Florida.

Current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that adults in general should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. However, if you are in the following population groups, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.

  • You are 51 years of age or older.
  • You are African American.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have chronic kidney disease.
The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults. Nearly everyone benefits from reduced sodium consumption. Eating less sodium can help prevent, or control, high blood pressure.

Sodium and Blood Pressure

The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults. Nearly everyone benefits from reduced sodium consumption. Eating less sodium can help prevent, or control, high blood pressure.

In some people, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, creating an added burden on the heart. Too much sodium in the diet may also have other harmful health effects, including increased risk for stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease. 

The American Heart Association recommends foods with little or no salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Sodium is an acquired taste. As you take steps to reduce sodium intake, you will actually start to appreciate foods for their true flavor. In time, you’ll look forward to how food really tastes – not just the salty flavor.

Tips for Reducing Sodium in the Diet

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label to compare and find foods lower in sodium. You’ll be surprised to find that even foods in the same category have different amounts of sodium!
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, when possible.
  • Limit the amount of processed foods you eat and your portion size.
  • Avoid adding salt when cooking and/or eating.
  • Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your food. Most spices naturally contain very small amounts of sodium, but read the label to be sure.
  • Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to fish and vegetables.
  • Specify how you want your food prepared when dining out. Ask for your dish to be prepared without salt.
  • Take control of what’s in your food by cooking more at home.
  • Choose foods with potassium. They counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.

To learn more about sodium facts visit the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/Sodium/index.html.

Also, visit the American Heart Association for facts, diets, cookbooks, and strategies to reduce sodium consumption at www.heart.org/HEARTORG/.