How Much Sodium You Really Need

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

Sodium is a mineral that’s important to good health, but many people consume way more sodium each day than they actually need. The tricky thing is that the recommendation for sodium intake varies.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), it’s 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily. The American Heart Association (AHA) sets the same limit, but the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming less than 2,000 milligrams daily (and adds that you should also consume 3,510 milligrams of potassium).

Although there are no guidelines in place for a minimum requirement for sodium, there are Adequate Intake (AI) and Upper Limit (UL) guidelines. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AI is defined as “the recommended average daily intake level based on observed or experimentally determined approximations or estimates of nutrient intake by a group (or groups) of apparently healthy people that are assumed to be adequate — used when an RDA cannot be determined.”

The AI for sodium is 1,500 milligrams per day. The UL — the highest average daily nutrient intake level that is likely to pose no risks of adverse health effects — set for sodium is 2,300 milligrams daily for adults.

Although the organizations that issue nutrition guidelines can’t seem to agree on sodium, you can be confident in one thing: Reducing sodium intake to 1,500 to 3,000 milligrams daily is good for the heart (and conveniently part of the DASH diet).

The DASH-Sodium study checked out three sodium levels — 3,000, 2,400, and 1,500 milligrams — and showed that along with the DASH diet principles, blood pressure was reduced at each sodium level but was reduced twice as much with the 1,500-milligram sodium level.