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Sodium is a mineral that your body needs to function properly. But eating too much sodium may, in time, raise your blood pressure. And high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney disease.
Most people should aim to eat less than 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. That's about 1 teaspoon of table salt. Yet most people in the United States get more sodium than they need each day. Most of this excess sodium comes from eating processed foods, such as frozen pizza and potato chips.
One way to limit the amount of sodium you eat is to check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label when buying food. The sodium content in similar foods can vary a lot. For instance, the sodium content in regular tomato soup may be 700 mg per cup in one brand and 1100 mg per cup in another brand. Choosing the brands with lower sodium content can be one way to lower the amount of sodium you eat.
Also, keep in mind that not all sodium in food is in the form of salt. Other food ingredients also contain sodium, such as:
Another way to limit sodium is to use spices other than salt. There are plenty of salt-free spice combinations that you can find in your grocery store. It may take a while for you to get used to the taste. But give it time. After a while, you may like them better than salt.
Besides limiting the amount of sodium you eat, it is also a good idea to eat foods rich in potassium. A potassium-rich diet blunts the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure. Aim to eat 4700 mg of potassium a day. See the Minerals section for a list of foods high in potassium. Also, check out the Potassium page in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Lists.
Content last updated: June 17, 2008.
Resources last updated: June 17, 2008.