Sodium Q&A

How much sodium should I get per day?

Did you know?

About 9 in 10 people in the United States get too much sodium, mainly from salt. Your body needs only a small amount of sodium to be healthy.1

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.2

A green apple with a nutrition label stamped on it.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025external icon recommends that adults in the United States consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day as part of a healthy eating pattern.3

Get tips for reducing sodium at the grocery store, at home, and when dining out.

What can I do to reduce my sodium?

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label while shopping to find foods that have less than 5% of the daily value of sodium per serving.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen fruits and vegetables without sauce, and canned vegetables with no added salt.
  • Limit processed foods high in sodium.
  • Consider eating more meals at home.
  • Use alternatives such as herbs and spices instead of salt when cooking.
  • When buying packaged or prepared foods, choose foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”
  • When eating out, ask for lower sodium options.3

Get more tips for reducing sodium.

How much sodium should my child get?

Sodium Q&A cover image.

Download the Sodium Q&A fact sheet pdf icon[PDF - 235 KB] version of this web content to share with individuals and patients.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025external icon recommends that children

  • 1 to 3 years old consume less than 1,200 mg of sodium per day.
  • 4 to 8 years old consume less than 1,500 mg.
  • 9 to 13 years old consume less than 1,800 mg.
  • 14 years old and older consume less than 2,300 mg.3

Children who regularly get too much sodium have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.4

Learn about high blood pressure in kids and teens.

Why should I reduce my sodium intake?

Most people in the United States get much more sodium on average than is healthy.

Getting more sodium than your body needs can raise blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.5 Even people without high blood pressure should keep their sodium below a certain level to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.6

Learn more about preventing and managing high blood pressure.

Where does most of the sodium in my diet come from?

Sodium values of a turkey sandwich.

In the United States, more than 40% of sodium people eat comes from the following 10 types of processed foods:9

  1. Deli meat sandwiches
  2. Pizza
  3. Burritos and tacos
  4. Soups
  5. Savory snacks, such as chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack mixes, and crackers
  6. Poultry
  7. Pasta mixed dishes
  8. Vegetables
  9. Burgers
  10. Eggs and omelets

Most of the sodium you eat comes from processed foods (e.g., hot dogs, sausages, ham, luncheon meats) and restaurant foods. You can’t control the amount of sodium in these foods, so it’s important to limit them in your diet.7

“Processed food” includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged, or changed in nutritional composition by fortifying, preserving, or preparing it in different ways.8

To learn how much sodium a processed food has, check the Nutrition Facts label. The sodium content is listed in milligrams.10

What is the difference between sodium and salt?

Sodium, which is a mineral, is an element found in salt.11 The chemical name for salt that you eat or drink (e.g., salt in the saltshaker) is sodium chloride.5 The terms are not the same but are often used interchangeably, and both may appear on a food label. For example, the Nutrition Facts label uses “sodium,” while the front of the package may say “salt free.”12

What do the different sodium-related terms mean on food packages?

  • Sodium free—contains less than 5 mg of sodium per serving and no sodium chloride
  • Very low sodium—contains 35 mg of sodium or less per serving
  • Low sodium—contains 140 mg of sodium or less per serving
  • Reduced sodium—contains at least 25% less sodium per serving than usual
  • Light (for reduced sodium products)—the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50% per serving
  • Light in sodium—sodium is reduced by at least 50% per serving13

What does “salt sensitive” mean? Who is “salt sensitive”?

When a person is salt sensitive, their blood pressure goes up more than usual when they consume sodium.5

People with salt sensitivity often are older, are Black, and/or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.5 There is no screening test for salt sensitivity.

Are you a health care professional?
A female healthcare professional holding an apple.

Use the health care professional’s version of the Sodium Q&A fact sheet pdf icon[PDF – 235 KB] to guide how much sodium patients should consume and ways to reduce their intake.

Will I get iodine deficiency if I get less sodium?

Most of the sodium people in the United States eat comes from processed and restaurant foods.14 In the United States, the salt used to make processed food does not have iodine in it.15 Reducing the amount of sodium in these foods or reducing how often you eat processed foods would not greatly affect your iodine levels.16

More Sodium Resources for Individuals and Patients