How much salt is too much?
Timothy Byrne, D. O., is an interventional cardiologist and director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: I’ve been hearing about the dangers of too much sodium. How much salt should I consume as part of my regular diet?
Answer: To maintain heart health, it’s important to choose foods low in fat and cholesterol and watch the sodium in your diet. Table salt is comprised mostly of sodium chloride, and too much of it has been shown to cause high blood pressure, a serious condition that stresses both the heart and body.
Recently, the American Heart Association changed its guidelines, recommending that people eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily, down from 2,300 milligrams. To put that into context, just a quarter teaspoon of salt contains 600 milligrams.
Most sodium in our diets comes from packaged foods, sodas, and restaurant meals. For example, a single serving of reduced sodium tomato soup has 470 milligrams, nearly one-third of the daily recommendation. While some sodium is necessary for our bodies to function normally, it occurs naturally in many foods so we don’t need to worry about adding more of it to our diets.
The best way to meet the 1,500 milligram per day guideline is to read food labels, keep portion sizes in check, and cook meals from scratch using fresh, whole foods. Because sodium does hide in processed foods and prepared meals, and even in medications, making healthier choices by reducing sodium in your diet does take dedication. Your physician or a registered dietician can help you evaluate your current diet and provide guidance on simple changes you can make to keep your heart healthy.
Reviewed September 2010