Nutrition Myths
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Sodium

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.

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, 2)

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.

Best food sources of Sodium

FoodServingAmount of Sodium (mg)% of RDA
for men
Rating% of RDA
for women
Rating
Cuttlefish, cooked3 oz (85g)632.442.2Excellent42.2Excellent
Abalone, cooked3 oz (85g)502.433.5Excellent33.5Excellent
Octopus, cooked3 oz (85g)39126.1Excellent26.1Excellent
Cheese2 oz (56g)34823.2Excellent23.2Excellent
Lobster, cooked3 oz (85g)32321.5Excellent21.5Excellent
Mussel, cooked3 oz (85g)313.720.9Excellent20.9Excellent
Coconut water1 cup (240g)25216.8Good16.8Good
Crab, cooked3 oz (85g)237.215.8Good15.8Good
Scallops, cooked3 oz (85g)225.215Good15Good
Rye1 slice (32g)21114.1Good14.1Good
Pork lean, cooked3 oz (85g)196.313.1Good13.1Good
Shrimp, cooked3 oz (85g)190.412.7Good12.7Good
Cheese ricotta, low fat1/2 cup (124g)15510.3Good10.3Good
Oysters3 oysters (140g)148.49.9-9.9-
Egg large2 large (100g)1409.3-9.3-
Soy milk1 cup (250g)127.58.5-8.5-
Bread, mulitgrain1 slice (26g)1097.3-7.3-
Cheese ricotta1/2 cup (124g)1046.9-6.9-
Herring, cooked3 oz (85g)97.86.5-6.5-
Swordfish, cooked3 oz (85g)97.86.5-6.5-
Milk, cow's1 cup (244g)97.66.5-6.5-
Clam, cooked3 oz (85g)95.26.3-6.3-
Pollock, cooked3 oz (85g)93.56.2-6.2-
Flounder, cooked3 oz (85g)89.36-6-
Beet greens1 cup (38g)85.95.7-5.7-
Yogurt low fat1/2 cup (120g)83.85.6-5.6-
Crayfish, cooked3 oz (85g)82.55.5-5.5-
Perch, cooked3 oz (85g)81.65.4-5.4-
Veal lean, cooked3 oz (85g)81.65.4-5.4-
Chard1 cup (36g)74.65-5-
Haddock, cooked3 oz (85g)744.9-4.9-
Olivestbsp (28g)71.94.8-4.8-
Mackerel, cooked3 oz (85g)70.64.7-4.7-
Beef liver, cooked3 oz (85g)67.14.5-4.5-
Chicken breast filet, cooked3 oz (85g)66.34.4-4.4-
Cod, cooked3 oz (85g)66.34.4-4.4-
Beetroot, cooked1/2 cup (85g)65.44.4-4.4-
Goose, cooked3 oz (85g)64.64.3-4.3-
Turkey, cooked3 oz (85g)59.54-4-
Halibut, cooked3 oz (85g)58.73.9-3.9-
Oats, cooked1/2 cup (117g)57.53.8-3.8-
Eel, cooked3 oz (85g)55.33.7-3.7-
Duck, cooked3 oz (85g)55.33.7-3.7-
Beef, lean3 oz (85g)54.43.6-3.6-
Lamb lean, cooked3 oz (85g)54.43.6-3.6-
Carp, cooked3 oz (85g)53.63.6-3.6-
Salmon, cooked3 oz (85g)51.93.5-3.5-
Artichokes, cooked1/2 cup (84g)50.43.4-3.4-
Snapper, cooked3 oz (85g)48.53.2-3.2-
Grouper, cooked3 oz (85g)45.13-3-
Quail, cooked3 oz (85g)44.22.9-2.9-
Tuna, cooked3 oz (85g)42.52.8-2.8-
Carrot1 medium (61g)422.8-2.8-
Dandelion greens1 cup (55g)41.82.8-2.8-
Turnip greens1 cup (144g)41.82.8-2.8-
Pike, cooked3 oz (85g)41.72.8-2.8-
Celery1/2 cup (50g)402.7-2.7-
Radish4 medium (100g)392.6-2.6-
Trout, cooked3 oz (85g)35.72.4-2.4-
Broccoli florets, cooked1/2 cup (78g)322.1-2.1-
Rabbit, cooked3 oz (85g)31.42.1-2.1-
Sweet potato, cooked1/2 cup (100g)271.8-1.8-
Kelp2 tbsp (10g)23.31.6-1.6-
Bok choy1/2 cup (35g)22.81.5-1.5-
Fennel1/2 cup (43,5g)22.61.5-1.5-
Red cabbage1/2 cup (75g)211.4-1.4-
Passionfruit4 medium (72g)201.3-1.3-
Brussels sprouts, cooked1/2 cup (78g)16.41.1-1.1-
Peanuts1 oz (28g)161.1-1.1-
Honeydew1/2 cup (85g)15.31-1-
Collards, cooked1/2 cup (95g)15.21-1-
Kale, cooked1/2 cup (65g)151-1-
Coconut milk1/2 cup (120g)14.51-1-
Watercress1 cup (34g)13.90.9-0.9-
Cantaloupe1/2 cup (85g)13.60.9-0.9-
Soy Yogurt1/2 cup (100g)130.9-0.9-
Asparagus, cooked1/2 cup (90g)12.60.8-0.8-
Spinach, cooked1/2 cup (90g)12.60.8-0.8-
Coconut meat2 oz (56g)11.20.7-0.7-
Heavy cream1 oz (28g)10.60.7-0.7-
Green leaf lettuce1 cup (36g)10.10.7-0.7-
Cauliflower, cooked1/2 cup (62g)9.30.6-0.6-
Flaxseed1 oz (28g)8.40.6-0.6-
Adzuki beans, cooked1/2 cup (100g)80.5-0.5-
Parsnip, cooked1/2 cup (78g)7.80.5-0.5-
Arugula1 cup (28g)7.60.5-0.5-
Amaranth, cooked1/2 cup (123g)7.40.5-0.5-
Poppy seeds1 oz (28g)7.30.5-0.5-
Black Tea1 cup (237g)7.10.5-0.5-
Avocadosmall (100g)70.5-0.5-
Quinoa, cooked1/2 cup (92,5g)6.50.4-0.4-
Tomato1 medium (123g)6.20.4-0.4-
Green cabbage, cooked1/2 cup (75g)60.4-0.4-
Mung bean sprouts1 cup (100g)60.4-0.4-
Chickpeas, cooked1/2 cup (82g)5.80.4-0.4-
Parsley10 springs (10g)5.60.4-0.4-
Chia seeds1 oz (28g)5.30.4-0.4-
Leek, cooked1/2 cup (52g)5.20.3-0.3-
Pumpkin seeds1 oz (28g)50.3-0.3-
Tofu1 cup (100g)50.3-0.3-
For Table Legend & Data Sources Information click here.

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.

The following are the “mainstream”, official recommendations for Sodium (mg/day):

Life Stage Age AI for menUL for menAI for womenUL for women
Infants 0-6 months120-120-
Infants 6-12 months 170-170-
Children 1-3 years 200-4001,000200-4001,000
Children4-8 years 300-6001,400300-6001,400
Children 9-13 years 400-8002,000400-8002,000
Adolescents 14-18 years 460-9202,300460-9202,300
Adults 19-50 years 460-9202,300460-9202,300
Adults 51-70 years 460-9202,300460-9202,300
Adults > 70 years 460-9202,300460-9202,300
Pregnancy 14-50 years460-9202,300460-9202,300
Breast-feeding 14-50 years460-9202,300460-9202,300
For Table Legend & Data Sources Information click here.

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

Statistics on sodium consumption in mg per day

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 average3,592
Adults by ethnicity
Non-Hispanic white3,574
Non-Hispanic black3,536
Non-Hispanic Asian3,827
Hispanic3,654
Regionmg of sodium/day
Europe3,200-4,400 (1)
Australia2,150 (2)
Canada3,400 (3)

The following table shows the “official” daily sodium intake recommendations. Please note however that not all scientific studies agree with these numbers. The daily sodium intake ranges that are considered by mainstream guidelines as healthy, are argued to be harmful by some new studies. (read more..)

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