How much salt we consume per day?

How much sodium do we consume per day?

Pawel Malczewski
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Short summary

Children in the U.S. consume on average 3,137mg of sodium per day while the adult intake is 3,592mg. These amounts differ greatly depending on the gender and ethnicity (see below). Most of the official sources round this amount for adults to 3,400mg of sodium per day, and this is the amount I will refer to in the related articles.

Explanation

When we talk about salt consumption, it usually refers to the sodium intake. It constitutes between 34%-39% of the salt, depending on the type. The rest is mostly chloride and tiny amounts of some trace minerals.

Sodium is an essential mineral for our survival. However, since sodium is readily available as an isolated mineral compound (sodium-chloride i.e. salt), which we can simply buy and add to our food, there is a danger of over-consumption.

More importantly, the amount of sodium added to most processed foods accounts for about 75% of our overall sodium consumption. This is, of course, taking into account an average population. Those who mostly use whole foods and avoid processed products would not fall into this category.

Excess sodium is responsible for several cardiovascular related problems, such as high blood pressure, risk of heart diseases and stroke.

Why we don’t worry as much about over-consuming other minerals?

If other minerals were as readily available and as satisfying to the palate as sodium, we would be sprinkling Iron or Selenium powder in our food too, with disastrous consequences. Other minerals, however, are obtained from food (in more or less balanced amounts) and, in more concentrated forms, from tasteless food supplements.

Therefore, toxicity from these other minerals usually occurs when consuming too much of one type of food or taking too much of one particular supplement (especially when not required).

Due to the way that it is present in our diet, the consumption of salt needs to be controlled more than other minerals.

What are the major sources of sodium in our diets?

People from the U.S., Australia, Canada and Europe, on average, obtain sodium from the following sources: (1)American Heart Association. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Sodium. Available here. (2)Food Standards Australia New Zealand. How much sodium do Australians eat? June 2015. Available here.

Processed foods: ready products you buy from the shelf, restaurants.Naturally occurring sodium in whole foodsAdded salt during food preparation
75%12%13%

Products richest in sodium include: bread, cheese, ready to eat products off the shelf, sauces, breakfast cereals, crisps, potato products, restaurant meals, fermented products and some seafood products (e.g. seaweed). (read more..)

You more likely consume a “healthy” amount of salt if you eat mostly whole foods prepared at home.

What is the recommended daily sodium intake?

The answer to this question is not simple due to conflicting information between dietary guidelines established by most governments and health organizations and newly emerging evidence.

If you trust the guidelines, the ideal sodium intake is somewhere between an adequate intake of 920mg and an upper limit of 1,500mg of sodium per day. The absolute maximum is 2,300mg per day.

If you find the newer studies more convincing, you might stick to the higher range of about 2,600-5,000mg of sodium per day.

For more details on daily sodium recommendations see “What is the recommended daily sodium intake?”.

Statistics on sodium consumption in mg per day

Sodium consumption from foods and beverages. Statistics from NHANES 2011-2012 for the U.S.

By age and gendermg of sodium/daymg of sodium/day
AgesMALESFEMALES
2-52,3612,206
6-113,1962,954
12-194,2202,949
20-294,4773,294
30-294,5593,179
40-494,6463,089
50-593,9962,972
60-693,8242,769
70 and over3,3282,526
Children average3,4722,786
Adults average4,2182,997
General averagesmg of sodium/day
Children average3,137
Adults average 3,592
Adults by ethnicity
Non-Hispanic white3,574
Non-Hispanic black3,536
Non-Hispanic Asian3,827
Hispanic3,654

Statistics of daily sodium intake (mg) of other regions/countries for comparison

Regionmg of sodium/day
Europe3,200-4,400 (3)World Health Organization. (WHO) World Health Day 2013 – Reducing salt intake is key to reducing high blood pressure and stroke. 4 April 2013. Available here.
Australia2,150 (4)Food Standards Australia New Zealand. How much sodium do Australians eat? June 2015. Available here.
Canada 3,400 (5)Health Canada. Sodium in Canada. Available here.

References   [ + ]

1. American Heart Association. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Sodium. Available here.
2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. How much sodium do Australians eat? June 2015. Available here.
3. World Health Organization. (WHO) World Health Day 2013 – Reducing salt intake is key to reducing high blood pressure and stroke. 4 April 2013. Available here.
4. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. How much sodium do Australians eat? June 2015. Available here.
5. Health Canada. Sodium in Canada. Available here.