Sodium: 20 Foods High in Sodium


Sodium is a mineral that plays an important role in the body’s state of hydration. It is present in the blood and in the extracellular fluid in which the cells are bathed. Sodium also helps maintain acid-base balance and is essential in the transmission of nerve impulses as well as muscle contraction. However, in excess it can have deleterious consequences. This is why current recommendations aim to limit sodium intake.

Characteristics of sodium:

  • Mineral with a very important role for the distribution of water in the body
  • Influences blood pressure, nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction
  • Found in large quantities in table salt, smoked products and in brine
  • Sodium intake should be limited
  • Too much sodium can be dangerous for arterial and kidney health

Why eat foods high in sodium?

Benefits and roles of sodium in the body

water balance

The concentration of sodium in the body regulates the movement of water between the different intracellular and extracellular compartments. Through homeostasis and absorption phenomena, the right amount of sodium is responsible for the body’s water balance.

Nerve impulses

The presence of sodium in the body makes possible the transmission of nerve impulses to neurons in the brain via polarization phenomena.

Muscle contraction

A sufficient amount of sodium also enables the muscle contraction mechanism.

Arterial pressure

Sodium is also involved in the regulation of blood pressure. Thus, a high sodium intake significantly increases blood pressure and vice versa. This is why, in cases of arterial hypertension, a more or less salt-free diet is often recommended.

What is the difference between sodium chloride, salt and sodium?

Salt is made up of chlorine and sodium, so it is also called sodium chloride. Sodium is therefore only one of the two compounds of salt. 1g of salt contains 400mg of sodium and 600mg of chlorine. Conversely, it takes 2.5 g of salt to obtain 1 g of sodium.

20 Foods High in Sodium

The main sources are prepared and pre-packaged foods. In fact, more than 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods such as cheeses, deli meats, pizzas, sauces and soups as well as dried or smoked foods.

Food Servings  Sodium content               
Miso, fermented products                                                  175 ml (3/4 cup)                7583mg
Dehydrated corned beef 100g 2790mg
Table salt 1 C. coffee 2373mg
Grilled bacon 100g – 4 slices 2310mg
Regular ham, 11% fat, sliced 100g 1500mg
Fish sauce ready to serve 15ml 1408mg
Baking soda 1 C. coffee 1284mg
Soy sauce, shoyu and tamari 15ml 914-1038mg
Canned legumes 1 cup 718-873mg
Atlantic herring, marinated 100g 870mg
Smoked salmon 100g 784mg
Teriyaki sauce ready to serve 15ml 700mg
canned tomato sauce 125ml 678mg
Reduced sodium soy sauce 15ml 608mg
Canned anchovies 4 anchovies (16 g) 588mg
Dill pickles 1 pickle (65g) 569mg
Feta cheese 50g 558mg
canned sardines 100 g (8 medium) 505mg
canned sauerkraut 1/2 cup 496mg
Cottage cheese, 2% fat 125 ml (1/2 cup) 485mg


How to properly use sodium?

Use of sodium

Current recommendations aim to limit salt intake in the diet. Thus, men should not consume more than 8g of salt per day while women and children should limit their consumption to 6.5g of salt per day.

Regarding sodium, there are recommendations relating to adequate intakes (AI) and tolerable maximum intakes (AMT).

Adequate intake (AI) Tolerable upper intake (UL)            
Babies 0-6 months                          120mg
Babies 7-12 months 370mg
Babies 1-3 years old 1000mg 1500mg
Children 4-8 years old 1200mg 1900mg
Boys 9-13 years old 1500mg 2200mg
Girls 9-13 years old 1500mg 2300mg
Boys 14-18 years old 1500mg 2300mg
Girls 14-18 years old 1500mg 2300mg
Men 19-50 years old 1500mg 2300mg
Women 19-50 years old 1500mg 2300mg
Men 50 and over 1,300 and 1,200 mg if 70 years and over           2300mg
Women 50 and over 1,300 and 1,200 mg if 70 years and over 2300mg
Pregnant women 1500mg 2300mg
Nursing women 1500mg 2300mg

Carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate and other forms in food

Although sodium chloride is the main source of dietary sodium, other forms are often found in foods as additives (monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, disodium pyrophosphate etc.). Sodium bicarbonate and sodium citrate are found in many antacid type medications.

Adverse effects of sodium

Consequences of a lack of sodium

Sodium deficiency is very rare. Even when dietary sodium intake is low, the body usually adapts by reducing losses through urine and sweat. On the other hand, a deficiency can occur during repeated vomiting, prolonged diarrhea, excessive sweating. Too little sodium intake can lead to some harmful side effects. Symptoms of sodium deficiency are muscle cramps, loss of appetite, dehydration, low blood pressure and confusion.

Too high sodium level

Conversely, excessive sodium consumption, which is much more common, can also lead to adverse effects including high blood pressure and loss of bone mass (osteoporosis). High blood pressure is an important risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. The general population consumes much more sodium than its actual need. Indeed, the average consumption of sodium in the form of salt among the French from 2000 to 4800 mg per day. Individuals suffering from hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease as well as the elderly are more likely than the rest of the population to see their blood pressure increased following a high sodium intake because they are sensitive to higher salt.

Interactions (with other nutrients)

A high potassium intake would increase the excretion of sodium in the urine and would therefore attenuate the rise in blood pressure resulting from excessive sodium intake.

Chemical properties

The symbol for sodium is Na and its atomic number is 11. Its atomic mass is 22.98976928 u. It is a naturally occurring, soft, silvery alkali metal.

In the body, sodium is essential and occurs at many levels often coupled with potassium. Thus in the right amount, it helps maintain homeostasis, water distribution, blood pressure, functioning of the nervous system and muscle contraction.

Sodium hydroxide, also called caustic soda, is the solid form of sodium. Its chemical formula is NaOH. It is generally used to produce soaps, washing powders and other relatively aggressive detergents.


Nutrient history

Sodium was isolated for the first time in 1807 by H. Davy, from sodium hydroxyl. In the Middle Ages, sodium was already used in the composition of remedies to treat headaches. We also always find very large quantities in effervescent medicines.

For a very long time, salt has also been used to preserve food and enhance its taste. This explains, in part, its ever-increasing use by the agro-food industries. Indeed, salt consumption continues to increase throughout the world, despite nutritional recommendations.

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