How much sodium do you need in a day? What foods can you eat without completely going overboard on the salt? Read on to understand everything you need to know about sodium and health.
What Is Sodium?
Firstly, what is sodium in the first place? Sodium is a mineral our bodies need to function properly. Sodium helps many body processes including nerve function, fluid balance and maintaining proper blood pressure.
How Much Sodium Per Day Should I Eat?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone limit sodium intake to 2,300mg per day.  This is about the amount of sodium in one teaspoon of salt.
How Much Sodium Is Too Much?
The problem comes when we eat too much sodium. Most people are eating way more sodium than they need. The average intake of sodium in the United States is 3,400 mg of sodium per day.  This is around 50% more sodium than we need.
How Much Sodium Per Day with Health Conditions?
Although nearly everyone should limit sodium, there are some health conditions that make a low sodium diet even more important.
A low sodium diet is especially important for people with heart disease. A low sodium diet can help control high blood pressure. Or, prevent high blood pressure from developing in the first place.
High Blood Pressure
No doubt about it! Blood pressure and salt are tightly linked. The more sodium you eat, the more your body will hold onto water. All of this extra water in your body can increase blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, it is best to limit sodium to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. 
A low sodium intake paired with the DASH diet is a very effective way to lower blood pressure.
Blood pressure control is a critical piece of managing kidney disease. High blood pressure can harm kidneys. And, high blood pressure is a common side effect of kidney disease.
Other Health Conditions
Salt is an important part of treatment for many other health conditions including liver disease, kidney stones and heart failure. Ask your doctor how much sodium is right for you!
Can I Eat Too Little Sodium?
Yes! Although most people are eating too much sodium, it is possible to eat too little sodium.
If you eat too little sodium, you could have these symptoms: 
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle weakness or cramps
What is a Normal Sodium Level?
Your doctor may check the level of sodium in your blood. The normal sodium level in blood is 135-145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). 
However, it is important to know that the amount of sodium in your blood does not reflect how much sodium you are eating. Sodium in your blood is tightly regulated. Sodium blood levels are actually used to measure the amount of water on your body. A high sodium level usually means you are dehydrated. A low sodium level may mean your body is unable to get rid of water as well as it should.
How To Eat A Low Sodium Diet
It can seem overwhelming when you first start following a low sodium diet. Here are some simple steps for starting a low sodium diet.
Choose Mostly Low Sodium Foods
Many people assume they are following a low sodium diet because they do not add salt to their food. Although added salt can add up quickly, added salt is not where most of the salt in our diet comes from. About 80% of the salt in our diet is already in our food. So, the first step to following a low sodium diet is choosing foods that are low in sodium in the first place.
Focus on these low sodium foods:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Frozen fruits and vegetables without added sauce or salt
- Low sodium canned vegetables
- Fresh, minimally processed meat, poultry and seafood
- Grains such as pasta, rice, quinoa and others
- Dried beans, lentils, fruits
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
Read Food Labels For Sodium
To make sure your food isn’t high in sodium, always read the Nutrition Facts label. A low sodium food is defined as having less than 140mg of sodium per serving. 
If a food doesn’t have food labels – such as fresh fruits and vegetables – it is a pretty safe assumption that food doesn’t have a lot of sodium in it.