daily sodium intake
The average American consumes a daily sodium intake of 3,400 mg, so keeping your sodium content to 200 mg a day is considered a low sodium diet.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association recommends people with hypertension, kidney and heart disease limit their sodium consumption to 1,500 mg/day, which roughly equals to a three-fourth teaspoon of salt each day.

It is more important to understand the concept of Daily Value (DV) in the context of salt intake. DV is the reference amount of nutrients that you should ideally eat and not exceed each day. It is the same as RDA but expressed as a percentage rather than absolute value, and often, food labels mention the sodium content of the food as DV rather than RDA.

  • As a general guide: Five percent DV or less per serving is considered low sodium, and 20 percent DV or more per serving is considered high sodium. Here is a table that will guide you when you are out shopping.
Table. Sodium levels on food labels
Label Sodium content
Sodium-free Contains less than five milligrams of sodium per serving
Very low sodium Contains less than or equal to 35 milligrams of sodium per serving
Low sodium Contains about 140 milligrams of sodium per serving
Reduced sodium Contains 25 percent less sodium than the regular product
Lightly salted Contains 50 percent less sodium than the regular product
Unsalted/No salt added No salt is added during processing, but it may still contain sodium

How to cut down on sodium in the diet?

Simply adding less salt to your food or not using table salt may not be enough to bring down your sodium intake. Sodium chloride (table salt) is a major ingredient added to many ready-to-eat foods, fast foods, dips and salad dressings to enhance the flavor and increase the shelf life of a product.

Here are some guidelines and recipes to keep the amount of sodium you consume under control:

  • Learn the art of reading nutrition labels: Compare the Daily Value (DV) and always opt for products with sodium-free/very low sodium options.
  • Consume home-cooked meals: Limit consumption of fast foods and instant foods, such as pizza and sandwiches, and make your own sauces and salad dressings at home so that you can control your sodium intake.
  • Add spices to flavor the food: You can add herbs, yogurt and spices when you cook, which means you don’t always need table salt to bring out the flavor. A dash of lemon, a sprinkle of onion and garlic powder and lemon zest can work well.
  • Avoid processed foods: Fresh meat, poultry and seafood contain less sodium and nitrates than the processed foods.
  • Watch your salad dressing: You can make and store salad dressing at home by combining half a lemon, a cup of olive oil, some garlic powder and a spoonful of onion powder in a mixer with no added salt, margarine or oil like the store-bought variety.
  • Snack smart: We all love snacks, and while it is okay to snack, make sure you’re snacking on fruits, unsalted nuts or carrot sticks rather than on biscuits or chips.
  • Make smarter choices when you eat out: You may request your salad dressing and sauces to be served separately on the side.

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What are the negative nutritional effects of consuming too much sodium?

Sodium or sodium chloride affects various biochemical processes in the body. Although doctors recommend not to avoid salt/sodium completely from the diet, it is definitely advisable to keep sodium levels at a minimum.

Here are the negative nutritional effects of consuming a high amount of sodium:

High Blood pressure

  • Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure because it stimulates the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone axis (the hormonal loop that senses sodium and water levels in the body and retains body water through the kidneys). 
  • Over time, excess sodium may contribute to perpetual high blood pressure levels.

Water weight

  • Water weight is caused by water retention from an excessively high sodium intake.
  • It may cause puffiness over the face and legs and bloating.

Kidney problems

  • Excess sodium intake often overloads the kidneys, which have to work overtime to get rid of the sodium content.
  • A study on people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) reported that higher sodium intake often hastens the progression of CKD.

Poor bone health

  • As you consume more salt, your kidneys pass more urine to get rid of it, which causes a simultaneous loss of calcium from the body.
  • Eventually, calcium leaches out of the bones and is lost through urine, causing thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).

Heart and blood vessel health

  • Unchecked salt consumption and an increase in blood pressure damage the artery walls over time and stress the heart.
  • This is often the trigger for heart diseases, strokes and peripheral artery diseases.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/8/2021
References
https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/