Worried about your daily sodium intake? That’s not surprising since the subject is in the news practically every day as food companies and restaurants are being urged to “cut the salt.” Dr. Arthur Agatston, author of The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call and creator of the South Beach Diet, believes that most of the sodium in people’s diets comes from the salt shaker and from eating too many processed foods. If you’re careful on both fronts, then you shouldn’t have to worry about sodium unless you suffer from salt-sensitive hypertension. In this case, your personal physician can recommend the proper course of action.
Sodium, in general, is not an important player in obesity, prediabetes, or diabetes. While some research has shown that high salt intake increases blood pressure, there is no conclusive evidence linking salt consumption directly to heart disease. On the South Beach Diet, we suggest consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily (about the amount in a teaspoon of salt). However, the American Heart Association takes a more conservative approach recommending that adults aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
It’s important to note that on average, Americans consume far more than that: Men consume between 3,100 and 4,700 mg of sodium per day, while women typically get between 2,300 and 3,100 mg (as a result of their lower calorie intake, not because they’re restricting sodium).
Though consuming too little sodium is not usually a problem, if you're someone who participates in regular vigorous activity, you will need to be careful to maintain an adequate sodium intake before and after exercise. Too little sodium in the body followed by vigorous exercise can lower fluid volumes to dangerous levels.