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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. Try to limit how much sodium (salt) you eat. For good health, less is best. This is especially important for people who are at risk for or already have high blood pressure. If you are African American, have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, or are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of salt you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day. People who do not fall into one of those categories should limit salt to 2,300 mg a day.

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.
ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedFebruary 4, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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