Sodium, one of the components of salt, is a mineral that is found in every cell of the body, with greatest concentrations in the fluid outside and in between cells. Sodium regulates the water content inside and outside our cells.
Sodium helps with the performance of many functions in the body. Some of them include:
It is recommended that people get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Certain adults should reduce intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This includes:
The Institute of Medicine has set Adequate Intake (AI) levels for sodium. This AI is the recommended daily average intake for healthy and moderately active people.
Adequate Intake (AI)
|Children: 1-3 years||1,000 mg|
|Children: 4-8 years||1,200 mg|
|Children: 9-18 years||1,500 mg|
|Adults: 19-50 years||1,500 mg|
|Adults 51-70 years||1,300 mg|
|Adults 71 years and older||1,200 mg|
Since the typical American diet is rich in sodium, deficiencies are uncommon in healthy people.
A sodium deficiency may accompany extreme body fluid loss, such as in the case of starvation, profuse sweating, or excess vomiting or diarrhea. It may also accompany kidney failure, heart failure, chronic liver disease, or use of some diuretics.
High sodium intakes have been correlated with elevated blood pressure and edema. Increasing dietary salt intake might also raise the risk of developing kidney stones.
Table salt is the major source of dietary sodium—about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sodium we consume is added during cooking or at the table. Fast foods and commercially processed foods, which are canned, frozen, bagged, boxed, or instant, also add a significant amount of sodium to the typical American diet. These include:
Sodium occurs naturally in:
All food products contain a Nutrition Facts label, which states a food's sodium content. The following terms are also used on food packaging:
|Food Label Term||Meaning|
|Sodium free||Less than 5 mg/serving|
|Very low sodium||35 mg or less/serving|
|Low sodium||140 mg or less/serving|
|Reduced sodium||25% reduction per serving in sodium content from original product|
|Light in sodium or lightly salted||At least 50% less sodium than the original product|
|Unsalted, no salt added, without added salt||Processed without salt when salt normally would be used in processing|
Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Updated December 2015. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Updated January 15, 2017. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Other dietary components. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers-other-dietary-components. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Salt. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Updated December 28, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium and salt. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 3, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium (chloride). Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium chloride. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T356397/Sodium-Chloride. Updated February 6, 2017 Accessed February 24, 2017.
Sodium in your diet: using the nutrition facts label to reduce your intake. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm315393.htm. Updated June 2, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Tips to eat less salt and sodium. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/healthdisp/pdf/tipsheets/Tips-to-Eat-Less-Salt-and-Sodium.pdf. Accessed February 24, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 2/24/2017