Sodium Requirements and Dietary Sources

Salt is one source of sodium which affects pH and fluid balance.
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Sodium is a major mineral found in the fluid surrounding the cells in your body. Sodium and potassium work together to regulate blood pressure and fluid volume. Sodium also helps maintain pH balance. Your muscles and nervous system also need sodium to function properly.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division sets the recommended dietary intakes of all nutrients, including sodium.

The daily adequate intake (DAI) of sodium is based on the amount needed by an average person who is good health. There are differences by age, but not by sex.

Daily Adequate Intakes

1 to 3 years: 1,000 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 1,200 milligrams per day
9 to 50 years: 1,500 milligrams per day
51 to 70 years: 1,300 milligrams per day
71+ years: 1,200 milligrams per day

The most common form of sodium is table salt, which is half sodium and half chloride, but a little bit of sodium occurs naturally in many foods. Significant sources include dairy products, beets, and celery. Processed foods usually contain a large amount of sodium in the form of preservatives and flavor enhancers.

Most People Consume Too Much Sodium

Sodium deficiency is rare because most diets contain about double the recommended levels. The Institute of Medicine suggests getting no more than 2,400 milligrams per day. Unfortunately, the typical daily Western diet contains around 3,000 to 5,000 milligrams.

While not all people appear to be sensitive to sodium, certain people may need to lower their sodium intake to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about sodium intake and your health.

Getting too much sodium is associated with higher blood pressure and can increase calcium loss from your bones.


How to Limit Your Sodium Intake

Choose more fresh foods, season food with herbs and spices avoid heavily processed foods and read food labels to find acceptable sources. Anything over 400 milligrams per serving is considered high in sodium. If you must buy processed foods, look for products with less than 150 milligrams per serving whenever possible.

Can You Have a Sodium Deficiency?

Suffering from a deficiency of sodium is rare because sodium is present in small amounts in most food. If it does occur, such a deficiency is more likely to be caused by profuse sweating combined with massive water intake in a short time. This condition, called hyponatremia, is life-threatening and requires immediate medical care.


American Heart Association. "About Sodium." Accessed March 2, 2016.

Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Sixth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2013. Accessed March 2, 2016.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division. "Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application." Accessed March 2, 2016.

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. "Sodium in Diet." Accessed March 2, 2016.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans - 2015." Accessed March 2, 2016.

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