The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming a maximum of 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. However, the organization advocates setting a goal of a maximum of 1,500 mg for most adults.
High sodium intake can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Some people may be more sensitive to salt than others, but most Americans are still getting much more sodium in their diets then they need. There is evidence that if adults eat less sodium, their blood pressure decreases.
Since it is difficult to know who among us will benefit most from less salt, most organizations recommend that we all limit our salt intake. According to the US Department of Agriculture, adults should limit their salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day. And those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, as well as African Americans and adults 51 years or older should limit their sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
A major study in this area is DASH, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat helped lower blood pressure. This is now known as the DASH diet. The second phase of the study found further reductions in blood pressure when the DASH diet was combined with a sodium intake of no more than 2,300 mg per day.
Follow these tips to help lower your sodium intake:
Read the nutrition label to find out how much sodium is in the foods you are purchasing.
Gradually cut down on the amount of salt you use. Your taste buds will adjust to less salt.
Do not add salt from the salt shaker at the table. Or add much less than before. Taste your food before you salt it; it may not need more salt.
Substitute flavorful ingredients for salt in cooking, such as garlic, oregano, onion, lemon or lime juice, or other herbs, spices, and seasonings.
Opt for fresh foods instead of processed foods. For example, select fresh or plain frozen vegetables and meats instead of those canned with salt.
Look for low sodium, reduced sodium, or no salt added versions of foods you eat every day.
Cook and eat at home. Adjust your recipes to gradually cut down on the amount of salt you use. If some of the ingredients already contain salt, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, or cheese, you do not need to add more salt.
Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt.
When dining out, order a low-salt meal or ask the chef not to add salt to your meal.
Limit your use of condiments such as soy sauce, dill pickles, salad dressings, and packaged sauces.
Making dietary changes takes time, so go slowly and allow your taste buds to adjust.
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.