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Nutrition – Confused About Sodium?
Jillian Schoening

Do you know what the top source of sodium in our diets is?

Nope it’s not soup or processed meat, it’s actually bread! Bread is the #1 source of sodium in the American diet. While bread only has about 200 mg of sodium/slice, we typically consume excessive portions of it and the sodium quickly adds up!

Nearly half of the sodium we consume comes from only 10 types of foods including bread, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, soups, Mexican dishes, savory snacks, chicken, cheese, and eggs. Other top contributors are condiments and desserts (since salt can bring out sweet flavors).

Although most of the sodium we eat is already in our foods, some still comes from the salt shaker.

1 teaspoon of salt = 2300 mg of sodium!

For most individuals, that is our daily limit/recommendation. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2300 mg of sodium daily. For reference, most Americans consume over 3400 mg of sodium per day.

Sodium is needed for regulating blood pressure, maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance, and for proper muscle and nerve function. However, consuming too much sodium is associated with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Uncontrolled hypertension can damage blood vessels and may lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, vision loss, and other conditions.

Prevention is key, aim to consume as close to 2300 mg of sodium a day to help prevent hypertension. If you already have high blood pressure, aim to consume about 1500 mg of sodium per day.

Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake:

  1. Read the nutrition facts label on foods so that you have a better idea of how much sodium is in your foods. Focus on the amount and the serving size not on the % Daily Value. If you are looking at package labeling, foods marked low sodium contain ≤140 mg/serving and those labeled very low sodium contain ≤35 mg/serving.
  2. Add less salt to foods. Remove the salt shaker from the table and keep in mind that salad dressings, condiments, and seasoning blends often contain sodium. Use fresh herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor your meals. Taste buds change over time so you can adjust to less salty flavors.
  3. Cook more meals at home where you can control the amount of sodium in your food. Fast food and restaurants are major contributors of sodium. If you do eat out, choose plainer foods and request the sauces and dressings on the side.
  4. Aim to consume fewer processed foods. Sodium is found naturally in foods but is also added as a preservative to processed foods. Therefore, heavily processed foods typically contain more sodium. Choose low, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions and rinse canned foods.
  5. Replace salty foods with produce. Fruits, vegetables, and beans are lower in sodium and higher in potassium. To balance out blood pressure, you want to consume twice as much potassium (4700 mg/day) as sodium. Eat smaller portions of saltier foods and increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Overall, sodium is an important micronutrient but we often consume too much. Keep sodium in mind as you purchase or cook meals and check with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.

Jillian Schoening MS, RD, LDN

If you are interested in learning more about how much sodium you should be consuming or are interested in one-on-one counseling, please contact my office at 919-370-7187 or email me at

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