Check the Nutrition Facts

Sodium and Potassium

Salt is a combination of two nutrients: sodium and chloride, which help your body regulate fluids and blood pressure. Sodium itself is naturally present in many foods—and so is potassium. So why have Dietary Guidelines's advice for sodium and potassium?

Most Americans consume much more sodium than they need. For many people, the higher their salt intake, the higher their blood pressure. High blood pressure, in turn, increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, and kidney disease. During their lifetime, many Americans will develop high blood pressure. That said, a potassium-rich eating pattern helps counteract the effects of sodium on blood pressure.

Advice for most people: consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium daily. For those with high blood pressure, African Americans, and middle-aged and older adults, try to limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily, while consuming 4,700 milligrams of potassium from food. This is wise advice for healthy people, too, who may not know if their blood pressure is sodium-sensitive.

What's the main source of sodium and potassium? Food itself. For sodium, it's mostly from processed food, not the salt shaker. And for potassium, from many fruits and vegetables.

To lower the risk for high blood pressure or delay its onset if you're sodium-sensitive, the general advice is to go easy on salt (and sodium) and consume more potassium. Choose and prepare foods with little salt. Use Nutrition Facts on food labels to find foods with less sodium and more potassium. And consume plenty of potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. For more about salt, sodium, and potassium in a healthful eating plan, refer to chapters 4 and 7.

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