Sodium is an element that the body needs to work properly. Salt contains sodium.
The body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume. Your body also needs sodium for your muscles and nerves to work properly.
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, which is table salt. Milk, beets, and celery also naturally contain sodium. Drinking water, also contains sodium, but the amount depends on the source.
Sodium is also added to many food products. Some of these added forms are monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate. These are in items such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, and bouillon cubes.
Processed meats like bacon, sausage, and ham, and canned soups and vegetables also contain added sodium. Fast foods are generally very high in sodium.
Sodium in the diet (called dietary sodium) is measured in milligrams (mg). Table salt is 40% sodium; 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.
Healthy adults should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. Adults with high blood pressure should have no more than 1,500 mg per day. Those with congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, and kidney disease may need much lower amounts.
There are no specific recommended amounts of sodium for infants, children, and teens. Eating habits and attitudes about food that are formed during childhood are likely to influence eating habits for life. For this reason, it is a good idea for children to avoid eating too much salt.
Diet - sodium (salt)
Aronow WS, Fleg JL, Pepine CJ, et al. ACCF/AHA 2011 expert consensus document on hypertension in the elderly: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation Task Force on Clinical Expert Consensus documents developed in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology, American Geriatrics Society, American Society for Preventive Cardiology, American Society of Hypertension, American Society of Nephrology, Association of Black Cardiologists, and European Society of Hypertension. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;57:2037-114.
Review Date 5/13/2014
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.