Salt is an ingredient in many foods and drinks. Sometimes it is a natural ingredient, and sometimes it is added to foods and beverages.
Salt contains sodium, which is a mineral involved in a number of processes in your body. Sodium is not unhealthy, but too much of it can cause health issues.
It is important to understand that salt and sodium are not the same things, although very similar. Salt is not the only source of sodium we have. Other products also supply dietary sodium.
This article will explain how much salt is too much, how much salt is enough, and the average amount of sodium most Americans get in their diet.
Too much salt
The amount of sodium and salt you should have in your diet depends on your age and health. The guidelines also vary depending on the source who issues the guidelines.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has broken down the maximum amount of sodium a person should have per day based on their age:
- Age 1-3: 1.5 grams (g)
- Age 4-8: 1.9 g
- Age 9-13: 2.2 g
- Age 14 and older: 2.3 g
The American Heart Association (AHA) also recommends adults have no more than 2.3 g of sodium (5.75 g of salt) each day. They also offer guidelines on the target amount of sodium, which will be discussed further in this article.
The World Health Organization (WHO) gives a more restrictive maximum than the USDA and AHA have devised. The WHO recommends that adults get less than 2 g of sodium (5 g of salt) per day.
The right amount of salt
According to the AHA, ideally, people of all ages should not consume more than 1.5 g of sodium (3.75 g of salt) per day. The AHA also states that most people only need about 0.5 g of sodium per day for their body to function properly. However, you may need more salt, especially if you are an active person. Salt is necessary to regulate the balance of fluids in your body and prevent dehydration.
Average sodium consumption per day in the US
Now that you know that it is generally advised that adults consume 0.5-2.3 g of sodium per day, you may wonder how much sodium the average American consumes in a day.
The AHA has found that Americans consume an average of more than 3.4 g of sodium (8.5 g of salt) per day. Seventy percent of the sodium in many Americans’ diets comes from pre-packaged, prepared, or restaurant food.