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The Dish on Sodium October 15, 2010

What does it mean for a food to be “Low Sodium”?

A “Low Sodium” food is defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines as having 140 mg or less sodium per serving (or 140 mg per 50 g of the food if the serving size is small).

How much sodium can be consumed in a healthy diet?

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends that we consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day. As a reference, 2300 mg of sodium is equal to about 1 tsp of salt.  While limiting the amount of sodium we consume, it is recommended that we increase our consumption of potassium-rich foods, by incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diets.

Other Sodium Terms Used on Food Packages:

A “Very Low Sodium” food contains 35 mg or less per serving.
“Sodium free” or “Salt free” foods must contain less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
“Light in Sodium” contains at least 50% less sodium than the reference food.
“Reduced Sodium” or “Less Sodium” contains at least 25% less sodium per serving than the reference food.

In other words, when you see a food that is “Light in Sodium” it is not necessarily a low sodium food. For example, consider the reduced sodium soy sauce below:


Buying the "Lite" or "Reduced Sodium" soy sauce helps reduce the amount of sodium but does not mean that it is a low sodium food.



This bottle of "lite" sodium soy sauce still contains 600 mg per serving, more than 4 times the amount of sodium per serving as a low sodium food.


Even though this soy sauce is the “Lite” Sodium version (50% less sodium than the original), consuming just 4 tbsp of this food will provide 2400 mg of sodium, 100 mg more than the recommended allowance for an entire day.

To avoid a sodium overload, consume high-sodium foods in small amounts and pay attention to the serving size.

According to Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition, consuming more than the recommended 2300 mg per day limit of sodium can increase risk for developing high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease and stroke.  Canned, packaged, and highly processed commercial foods account for a large percentage of sodium in the average North American’s diet.

To reduce your daily sodium intake, choose many fresh foods (including fruits and vegetables), whole grains, and use herbs, spices and lemon juice to enhance flavor of meals so that less salt is needed.


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