We’ve all been told at one point or another to lower our sodium intake. The average American consumes over 3000 mg of sodium each day. It is recommended that healthy adults eat no more than 2300 mg of sodium each day and adults with high blood pressure should not eat more than 1500 mg of sodium each day. According to this recommendation for high blood pressure, that would mean a greater than 1500 mg sodium reduction to show a decrease in blood pressure.
But is lower sodium intake really better?
Recent research shows that it may depend on the person when deciding how much one should decrease their sodium intake. Some individuals may not require as drastic of a reduction in sodium intake to lower their blood pressure than others. For example, someone may be able to reduce their sodium intake from 3000 mg to 2300 mg to reduce their blood pressure, while others may need to decrease their sodium intake to 1500 mg to see the same results. This is just like everything else with nutrition, it is all very individualized. If you are told to reduce your sodium intake, try gradually reducing your sodium intake to find your sweet spot rather than drastically reducing your sodium intake all at once.
Are there any risks to reducing sodium intake?
There may be undesirable effects with drastic decreases in sodium intake, such as an increase in adrenaline hormones that are typically released when your body is under stress. Other than this there is only weak evidence that suggests significantly reducing sodium intake will have harmful effects. As of now, researchers recommended to reduce sodium intake to 2300 mg each day, even for individuals with high blood pressure. However, reducing sodium intake to 1500 mg a day will lower blood pressure even more than 2300 mg a day, which is why 1500 mg is the current recommendation for high blood pressure.
How do I know how much sodium is right for me?
We can sit here and debate numbers all day, but at the end of the day the numbers are going to look different for everyone. We know now that some people are more sodium sensitive than others and so sodium intake is not a “one size fits all” recommendation. The following foods contribute to more than half of the sodium intake in America:
Sandwiches (deli meat)
Rice, pasta, and grain dishes
Meat dishes (especially fried)
Instead of focusing on sodium intake alone, focus on eating a balanced diet:
Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
Focus on low-fat dairy.
Make half of your grains whole grains.
Increase lean protein intake (poultry, fish, nuts).
Decrease saturated fat intake.
Reduce fried food, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
So, what’s the take away?
With all of this being said, just remember that anything in extremes is not good. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and too little sodium can throw off your body’s balance. Focus on eating a balanced diet, lower the amount of processed foods you eat, and you will naturally lower your sodium intake. If you need additional guidance, talk with a registered dietitian or other healthcare professional.