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Sodium is an essential nutrient found in varying quantities in nearly all foods. Salt (sodium chloride) enhances food flavours and adds to eating enjoyment.

Functions of Sodium:

  • Salt enhances food flavours, helps preserve foods, and contributes to the texture of cheese, processed meats, breads and other yeast-raised baked goods.
  • Sodium plays a major role in maintaining the body's water balance, conducting nerve signals, and keeping blood volume and pressure at proper levels. The body tightly controls sodium balance.

Aim for Moderation:

  • Health organizations worldwide differ in their recommendations for sodium intake because of the complexity of the research surrounding sodium and health and the varying sensitivity to sodium among sub-population groups.
  • A common sodium recommendation that is used in the U.S. is to consume less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. This sodium level is currently used for food labeling in the U.S.
  • In Canada, expert panels have not issued a sodium guideline for the general population; for the sodium-sensitive sub-population, the Canadian recommendation will be 1,500-2,300 milligrams sodium per day when the new DRI recommendation is implemented.
  • Individuals vary in their sodium requirements. Factors such as climate, physical activity level and health status can affect sodium needs.

Sources of Sodium:

Only small amounts of salt occur naturally in foods. Most salt is added during processing or at the table.

Sodium and High Blood Pressure

Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors. Scientists have found several factors can be involved in the development of high blood pressure including overweight, increasing age, sedentary lifestyle and genetics.

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