What Should Your Daily Salt Intake Be?

Salt is one of the condiments that we use the most for cooking, but too much salt can be harmful to your health. Find out how much your salt intake should be.
What Should Your Daily Salt Intake Be?

Last update: 21 September, 2018

Current recommendations suggest a diet with a low salt intake. It’s a common recommendation, but we’re often left wondering, “How much should my daily salt intake be?”

Nowadays, our parents and grandparents know that salt is linked to high blood pressure. But is there a correct dose or measurement? There are many health problems that are caused by a high salt intake, let’s take a detailed look.

Sodium: the main culprit

Your average table salt contains at least 40 percent sodium. The human body requires a certain amount of sodium for proper functioning. Still, the required amounts are low.

In fact, in terms of nutrition, sodium is considered to be a micronutrient. It’s responsible for controlling blood pressure, blood volume, and nutrient absorption. What’s more, this nutrient plays a central role in muscle contraction.

Since it’s a regulating substance, if you eat too much of it, it can wreak havoc on your vital organs. What’s more, it can affect your kidney function, as well as calcium absorption.

The issue with amounts

woman's hand sprinkling salt in pot

A single gram of salt contains 400 milligrams of sodium. The problem is that table salt isn’t its only source. In fact, there’s a lot of “hidden” salt in products that you might eat daily, such as: snacks, soy sauce, sausages, cheese, meat, etc.

What happens after you consume all of this salt?  If you eat these foods regularly, and add extra salt from the salt shaker, this will result in high levels of sodium in your body. Most people don’t have any idea of how much their salt intake is.

According to statistics, 90 percent of Americans consume around 3,400 mg of salt per day. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, manage this data. Obviously, this amount is more than the recommended daily amount. So, the main question remains, “How much should my daily salt intake be?”

What your daily salt intake should be, according to the WHO

Health agencies recommend an upper limit that you should not exceed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average person shouldn’t consume more than five grams of salt per day. This amount would be the equivalent to a level teaspoon, of well-treated and iodized salt.

A five gram salt measurement, gives around 2,300 mg of sodium per day. We should also point out that although you can control the salt shaker, the same can’t be said for the amount of salt found in processed foods. And the main challenge here is that, at least 75 percent of our total salt consumption comes from these products.

And despite all of this, there’s no consensus. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada suggest that consuming less than 3,000 mg of salt each day, can also pose a risk. The studies are ongoing, but a very low salt intake in healthy individuals, is counterproductive.

The harmful effects of sodium deficits

A sodium deficit in the body is known as hyponatremia. It’s considered a symptom of overhydration, a condition present in some bodies. In its most advanced state, it can generate seizures, induce coma, and cause death. As you can see, a person’s hydration is closely related to this mineral.

Most experts recommend low sodium consumption, except in very specific cases. Diet, production processes, and the quality of current foods, already provide excessive amounts of salt. Consuming it indiscriminately can be dangerous for those with hypertension.

close up of empanadas on a table salt intake
Pre-cooked products are usually high in salt.

Therefore, those with cardiac conditions will have a recommended salt intake. It’s also the same for individuals over 51, and for those with hypertension, and diabetes: they should consume a maximum of 1,500 milligrams daily. This also applies to patients with renal problems.

A few recommendations

Everything points to your health and depends on the control you have over your salt consumption. Not only should you pay attention to homemade foods, but also to the sodium that’s present in processed foods. Therefore, you have to verify each product’s nutrition label.

In the kitchen, you can choose to add salt to foods that need it, but always use the right amount. It’s also a reality that, taste-wise, salt enhances a recipe’s flavor.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.