Confusion continues about levels of sodium

Guest columnists
By Drew McArthur and David Peterson | Dec 20, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo Drew McArthur

Q: I’ve read a lot about how to read food labels when I am shopping but I am still a bit confused about sodium. What should I be looking for on the label, and should I be concerned about the extra table salt I use to cook with or to season my food to taste?

A: Well, sodium can be tricky.  There are two places that you should look when finding the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label on packaged food. First is the amount per serving, this identifies what the manufacturer defines as one serving of the product (this may differ from your personal opinion). The second is the milligrams of sodium, abbreviated mg, that are specified to be in that one serving. This may be the entire package or it may only be a fraction of the package (you may be surprised). As for table salt, one teaspoon is 2400mg. The dietary guidelines for Americans 2010 states to reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults. Do not be fooled by Sea Salt and Mineral Salt, they are just as rich in sodium as regular salt.  Low sodium salt can be purchased but make an inquiry to the Nutrition Facts label for confirmation. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are nearly sodium free as well as fresh meats that have not been marinated or preserved. Using fresh foods with herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt or salt derived seasonings can greatly reduce the amount of sodium consumed every day. The American Heart Association’s web address for controlling salt intake is

Dr. David Peterson agreed with Drew’s advice and added that in addition to sodium intake and blood pressure control, the major cardiac risk factors the need to be controlled are; quitting active tobacco use, managing your diabetes and managing your cholesterol if elevated.

Thanks for reading, and stay healthy.

Drew McArthur, MHS, RD, CNSC, LDN, is a Clinical Nutrition Manager with MedWest-Haywood, and David Peterson, MD, is a cardiologist with Western Carolina Cardiology.