Most of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt, and the vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium is bad for your health. Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke. Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than any other cause.1
Sources of Sodium
Americans get most of their daily sodium—more than 75%—from processed and restaurant foods.2 What is processed food?
Sodium is already in processed and restaurant foods when you purchase them, which makes it difficult to reduce daily sodium intake on your own. Although it is wise to limit your use of added table salt while cooking and at the table, only a small amount of the sodium we consume each day comes from the salt shaker.
Dietary Guidelines for Sodium and Potassium
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 [PDF-2.9M] recommend that everyone age 2 and up should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Some groups of people should further limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, including:
- Adults age 51 or older.
- All African Americans.
- Anyone who has high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
Those groups add up to about half of the U.S. population and the majority of adults.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend meeting the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg per day). Higher potassium intake can help lower blood pressure. Foods that are high in potassium and low in sodium include bananas, potatoes, yogurt, and dry beans, among others. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sodium and Potassium fact sheet [PDF-153K] has more information about the role of potassium in a healthy diet and a list of foods rich in potassium.
Nearly everyone benefits from lower sodium intake. Learn more about sodium in your diet in Where's the Sodium?, a February 2012 report from CDC Vital Signs.
Balancing Act: Sodium and Potassium
Did you know that sodium and potassium both affect blood pressure? In general, people who reduce sodium, who increase potassium, or who do both benefit from having lower blood pressure and reducing their risk for other serious health problems. Eating enough potassium each day can help balance out some of the harmful effects that high sodium intake can have on blood pressure. But lowering sodium intake is key to this balance.
Americans eat out at fast food or dine in restaurants four or five times a week. Just one of those meals might contain more than an entire day's recommended amount of sodium. In Preventing Chronic Disease Journal, a CDC report offers strategies for health departments and restaurants to work together to offer healthier choices for consumers who want to lower their sodium intake.
This issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice highlights the methods, progress and lessons learned from the SRCP. The SRCP, launched by the CDC in 2010, works on the local level to increase the availability and access to lower sodium foods in settings like schools, work sites, grocery stores, restaurants, and congregant meal programs for older adults.
Most US preschoolers consume too much sodium, and nearly all do not consume enough potassium, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This article provides a summary of key findings and opportunities for action by consumers and public health professionals.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued their findings on “Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of the Evidence”. CDC commissioned this report to evaluate the results, study design and methodological approaches that have been used to assess the relationship between sodium and health outcomes.
This document provides practical guidance to states and localities for use when developing, adopting, implementing, and evaluating a food procurement policy.
The CDC Vital Signs program is a call to action each month concerning a single, important public health topic. For American Heart Month, the February edition of CDC Vital Signs focuses on the amount of sodium in Americans’ diets and what we can do to reduce it.
- Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009. Nat Vital Stat Rep. 2011;60(3).
- Mattes RD, Donnelly D. Relative contributions of dietary sodium sources. J Am Coll Nutr. 1991;10:383–93.
- Page last reviewed: August 25, 2014
- Page last updated: August 25, 2014
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