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How Much Sodium Should One Have During a Single Day?


If you're like most Americans, you consume much more sodium than you need each day. According to a 2012 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of adults in the United States regularly eat too much sodium. This excessive intake translates into billions of dollars spent annually in health care costs. To keep your sodium consumption in check, be aware of how much sodium you are eating and identify sources of excessive sodium.




Recommended Daily Allowance

The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommends that healthy adults between 19 and 50 years old consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. This amount is roughly equivalent to the sodium contained in 1 teaspoon of salt, though most of the sodium that you consume comes from sources other than table salt. If you are over 50 years old, suffer from kidney disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver problems or high blood pressure or are an African American, your doctor may advise you to follow a sodium-restricted diet and limit yourself to 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.


Importance of Sodium

Because sodium influences fluid balance in the body, it plays an important role in blood pressure control. Sodium also promotes the absorption of essential nutrients such as glucose, chloride and amino acids. Along with potassium and chloride, sodium establishes the electrochemical balance that enables nerve cells to transmit impulses and smooth skeletal and cardiac muscles to contract. Endurance athletes exposed to heat for a long period of time without replenishing fluid or those who suffer from an illness that causes severe vomiting or diarrhea may develop a dangerously low drop in sodium. Sodium deficiency, also known as hyponatremia, can cause fatigue, confusion, muscle cramping and fainting. If left untreated, it can result in seizures or brain damage.


Dangers of High Sodium Intake

Too much sodium is just as dangerous for you as too little. If you regularly consume more than the recommended daily allowance of sodium -- the Mayo Clinic reports that the average American gets at least 1,000 milligrams too much each day -- you may be significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. A 2011 study published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" reported that people who have diets too high in sodium and too low in potassium have a much greater risk of dying from heart disease and "all-cause mortality."


Reducing Sodium Consumption

If you're trying to keep your sodium consumption within the recommended levels, a good first step is to avoid processed, ready-made and prepackaged foods, including canned soups, pasta mixes, frozen food entrees, fast food meals and cured meats such as hot dogs, bacon or lunch meat. Instead, focus on eating fresh produce, whole grains and unprocessed poultry, meat and seafood. Use spices, herbs and juices like lemon juice to season your food, not salt or other high-sodium seasonings. When you purchase convenience foods, look for low- or no-sodium options and ask that your food be prepared without salt in restaurants.

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Health & Fitness: How Much Sodium Should One Have During a Single Day?
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