Sodium is essential for life, but can cause serious health issues if you consume too much. While 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg each day if you are 50 years of age or younger and 1,500 mg if you are 51 or older, the Mayo Clinic reports that most Americans consume about 3,400 mg. Because of the variety of ways sodium can sneak into your diet, measuring the sodium in food is a good way to keep your intake at or below recommendations for your age.
Analyze food nutrition labels to measure sodium in each serving of food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires manufacturers to place nutrition labels on packaged foods. These labels give you two important pieces of information – serving size and how many mg of sodium each serving contains – that allow you to measure sodium. Assume a 12-oz. can of soup provides two servings, each containing 470 mg of sodium for a total of 940 mg of sodium per can. Divide 940 by 12 to get 78.3 mg per ounce. If you consume three fourths of the can – or 8 oz – multiply 78.3 by 8 to get a total of 626.6 mg of sodium.
Compare foods you eat with sodium information in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Look up general nutritional information, including sodium levels for specific foods or measure sodium by comparing foods against a sodium-specific nutrient list. This is especially useful for foods such as raw fruits and vegetables that do not come with food nutrition labels.
Measure the sodium content in salt you add to foods. Salt is 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride, so 1 tsp. of salt does not equate to 1 tsp. of sodium. Instead, every 1/8 tsp. of salt measures out to 250 mg of sodium. If you sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt on food, this equals 2,000 mg of sodium.
- Mayo Clinic; Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now; March 2011
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute/National Institutes of Health: Read the Food Label
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- Colorado State University Extension; Sodium in the Diet; J. Anderson, et al.; June 2011