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Sodium and People with Diabetes

Sodium and diabetes

Most people eat about 6 to 18 grams of table salt (sodium chloride) each day. That's about 1 to 3 teaspoons. People with diabetes are told to limit sodium. This helps prevent or control high blood pressure.

The USDA says to limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day. It also says you should have no more than 1,500 mg per day if you:

  • Are African American

  • Have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease

  • Are age 51 and older

The American Heart Association (AHA) urges all people to limit sodium to no more than 1,500 mg a day. That's no matter your age, health, or race. In some cases, your healthcare provider may tell you not to do so. But cutting down on salt may help you stay off medicines for blood pressure. 

How is sodium measured?

Common ways to measure sodium are:

  • 28 grams = 1 ounce

  • 1 gram = 1,000 milligrams

  • 5.5 grams of sodium = 1 teaspoon

What foods are high in sodium?

Most foods have some sodium in them. But it's often added to processed, prepared, and prepackaged foods. Some foods high in sodium are:

  • Meats, such as bacon, sausage, ham, cold cuts (bologna), corned beef, and hot dogs

  • Fish, such as canned tuna, salmon, and sardines; commercially frozen, pre-breaded, or smoked fish; and canned shellfish

  • Canned foods, such as vegetables, soups, and tomato juice

  • Prepared or premixed items, such as boxed macaroni and cheese, potato mixes, and frozen dinners

  • Snacks, such as salted crackers, pretzels, potato chips, and prepared baked goods like cookies and doughnuts

  • Other foods, such as olives, pickles, store-bought salad dressings, soy and steak sauces, and cheeses

Many stores have low-sodium foods. When buying food, check the labels for the symbol Na or NaCl, or the words sodium or sodium chloride. These mean sodium is present. Some fresh foods are "salt-free." But packaged versions may have a lot of salt. A dietitian can help point you to better food choices.

You can swap other spices and herbs for salt to add flavor. Or you can buy salt substitutes. Talk with your healthcare provider or a dietitian for help with cutting back on sodium. Some salt substitutes have potassium chloride. This may not be safe for people with kidney disease. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Fetterman RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2016
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.