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Sodium: Friend or Foe

One thing that we commonly hear when it comes to nutrition is sodium levels, yet this is something that isn’t usually commonly known. It should come as no surprise that as Americans we tend to consume around 3,400 mg of sodium per day, while the recommended amount of sodium is less than 2,300 mg a day. While your body does need sodium to work properly, consuming too much of it can be a major health risk and can lead to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

The best way to start limiting our sodium intake is to start reading food labels when purchasing foods, as well as knowing what types of food sodium is most prevalent in. Over 70% of the dietary sodium that we consume comes from eating packaged and prepared foods, not from the added table salt when cooking or eating. The easiest way to figure out how much sodium we are eating is to look at the food label. Looking at the daily value and making sure that it is under 2,300 mg is the first step. After finding that number, use that information to determine whether that serving is either high or low in sodium. Just to give you a general idea, 5% of the daily value or less per serving of sodium is considered low, while anything 20% and over of the daily value of sodium per serving is considered high. The other thing that we want to look at when we are reading the label in regards to how much sodium it contains is the amount of servings. Looking at how many servings it contains, as well as the serving size will help you know exactly how much sodium you will be consuming with how much you are planning to eat.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the prepackaged and prepared foods that we eat consume high amounts of sodium. So that’s where knowing exactly what foods usually contain high amounts of sodium can be beneficial. About 40% of the sodium consumed by Americans are found in the following foods: deli meats, pizza, burritos and tacos, soups, chips, savory snacks (chips, crackers, popcorn, etc.), poultry, pasta dishes, burger, and egg dishes and omelets. I know I offended just about everyone with that list right there, which is one of the reasons that we see such high amounts of sodium consumed on a daily basis. A lot of the foods we like to consume frequently contain high amounts of sodium. So next time you decide you want one of the items on that list, check the label first and I think you’ll be surprised at just how much sodium it contains.

Now that we see just how easy it can be to consume too much sodium, I’ll go over some tips on ways in which we can reduce our sodium intake.

  • Read the Nutrition Label

As I mentioned at the beginning, reading the food label can help give you a lot of insight on just what is contained in the food you are about to eat. Choose foods that contain less than 100% of the daily value, and ideally one that contain less than 5% of the daily value.

  • Prepare Your Food When You Can