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Consider a low Sodium Diet: How Much Is Too Much?

May 3rd, 2013

low sodium dietA normal human adult needs to consume about 500 mg of sodium each day. Your body needs the right amount of sodium to help maintain fluid equilibrium, transmit nerve impulses, and maintain muscle functions. However, too much sodium can also lead to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Doctors and nutritionists recommend that we limit our daily intake of sodium to 2400 mg. Just how much is 2400 mg of sodium?

Before we answer that question, let’s deal with the salt/sodium conundrum. We hear these two words interchanged a lot. What’s the difference between the two?

Table salt is actually a compound of sodium and chloride formed by ionic bonding. Sodium and chloride have 23 and 35 atomic mass units (AMU) respectively. Together, they combine for 58 AMUs.

Knowing this, we can estimate how much sodium we get from the salt we add to our food. If we divide the AMU of sodium (23) by the AMU of the entire compound (58), we get 40 percent. So, the salt we consume contains approximately 40 percent sodium.

A teaspoon of salt is approximately 6000 mg, which contains 2400 mg of sodium. That’s how much a healthy person can consume each day.

People over 51 should stay on a low sodium diet. They should not consume more than 1500 mg of sodium each day. That’s about 3750 mg of salt or less than two-thirds of a teaspoon.

Keep in mind that the recommended numbers are upper limits, and the less you consume the better. Unfortunately, the average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium a day. If you want to keep your sodium consumption down, you need to know the major sources of sodium like processed foods, meat, cheese, ketchup, soy sauce, and even milk.

Here are some tips to cut down on sodium according to Mayoclinic:

  • eat more fresh foods
  • choose low-sodium products
  • remove or limit salt from recipes when possible
  • cut down on sodium-rich condiments
  • use herbs, spices, and other flavorings instead of salt
  • use salt substitutes wisely

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