We all love adding salt to our food even though we know the sodium content is unhealthy. Just how much sodium per day is safe? Food regulators warn us about the dangers of excessive sodium intake.
One of the main reasons for this warning is that the high intake of sodium can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attack. Cardiovascular diseases are some the biggest killers in the western world (a)
There is a consensus among the different health authorities is that we limit our daily consumption of sodium to 2,300 milligrams or less per day. Most agree that 1500 milligrams per day is the ideal level of consumption for most adults.
However, most of us consume more than this recommended amount because of our dependence on processed, restaurant, and packaged foods. These foods are the primary sources of sodium intake for most Americans.
You can cut back on salt consumption by making sure you read food labels before buying them. Most of us consume so much sodium that we would see a significant improvement in heart health and blood pressure when we cut back our consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.
How much sodium in common salt?
The list below shows the amount of sodium in various measurements of the common salt
- 576 milligrams of sodium in a quarter-teaspoon (1.25 grams) of salt
- 1,150 milligrams of sodium in a half-teaspoon (2.5 grams) of salt
- 1,725 milligrams of sodium in a three-quarter teaspoon (4 grams) of salt
- 2,300 milligrams of sodium in a single teaspoon (5 grams) of salt
Most people should limit their salt intake to 4 to 6 grams per day. However, you’ll need to consume significantly lower amounts of salt if you eat plenty of packaged and restaurant foods.
Here’s a list of recommended daily salt intakes for different age groups:
- Adults – 6 grams (1 teaspoon)
- 7 to 10 years old – 5 grams (¾ teaspoon)
- 4 to 6 years old – 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 to 3 years old – 2 grams (1/4 teaspoon)
- Infants – 1 gram or less per day
In addition, these sodium consumption limits do not apply to extremely active people like athletes who lose a lot of sodium through sweat. Similarly, people who work in hot and humid environments are not subject to this recommendation because they also tend to expel plenty of sodium through sweat.
Now that we’ve covered the recommended daily sodium intake let’s find out if this element is really the monster ingredient they say it is.
How to know the sodium content of the food you eat
The food labels on processed and packaged foods tend to provide information about the sodium content. They typically list the sodium content in milligrams (mg).
There’s sodium in the food if you find words like salt, soda, and sodium on the label. The amount of sodium listed on the food label includes sodium from all sources like salt and preservatives.
However, the amount of sodium listed on the food label is for just one serving, so if you consume more than one portion, your sodium intake will be more than the amount listed on the label.
If you cook at home with fresh, unprocessed ingredients, it becomes much easier to know your daily sodium intake. This is because the only significant source of sodium is likely to come from the salt you add to the food.
You should aim for no more than a teaspoon of salt a day.
Is it possible to eat too little sodium?
Our bodies require less than 500 mg of sodium for optimum health. This works out to less than ½ teaspoon of salt per day.
Most of us can function properly with a daily sodium consumption of 1,500 milligrams or less, but this may cause issues for some people.
Athletes, people who work out frequently, and those who work in hot and humid environments may develop problems if they consume too little sodium. This is because these people tend to sweat a lot, which gets rid of a lot of sodium.
In addition, low sodium intake can also harm people with congestive heart disease.
The recommended daily intake of sodium is no more than 2,300, and the optimal intake for most adults is 1,500 milligrams per day.
However, you can limit your consumption to 500 milligrams a day and still function properly. However, this level of consumption is not recommended for people who lose a lot of body fluid through sweat.
In the end, the best way to cut back on your sodium intake is to eat foods made with whole, unprocessed ingredients like vegetables, fruits, fresh meat, whole grains, etc.