Sodium is a necessary nutrient, but most Americans consume several times more than they need.
When there is excess sodium in the body, the kidneys retain fluid, putting an extra burden on the blood vessels, heart and kidneys. Extra sodium can lead to high blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends people with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day. This translates to about ¾ teaspoon of salt. For those without a chronic illness, the recommendation is 2,300 milligrams a day.
Most of our sodium intake comes from processed foods, accounting for more than 70% of an average American’s intake. Some examples of high-sodium processed foods include canned and dry packaged soups, macaroni and rice mixes, frozen entrees, canned meats, processed meats, salted snack foods and pickled, smoked or cured items.
Eating away from home can be difficult for those with high blood pressure. Most fast-food sandwiches have 800-1,000 milligrams of sodium.
There are steps you can take to reduce your sodium intake. Choose lower-sodium versions of your favorite foods. You can buy reduced-sodium soups and bouillon. Vegetables and canned beans also have “no salt added” versions. For an item to be considered low sodium, it needs to have no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.