Health Encyclopedia

Sodium and People with Diabetes

Sodium and diabetes

The average American consumes about 6 to 18 grams (or 1 to 3 teaspoons) of ordinary table salt (or sodium chloride) each day. People with diabetes are encouraged to limit the sodium in their diets to help prevent or to control high blood pressure.

The 2010 recommendations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture instruct you to limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. The recommended daily sodium intake is 1,500 mg for African-Americans and for people diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, as well as those ages 51 and older. Note that the American Heart Association (AHA) takes an even more conservative approach to sodium intake. The AHA recommends a maximum daily sodium intake of 1,500 mg. Unless your health care provider has told you that this intake level doesn't apply to you, the AHA recommends it for everyone, no matter what age, medical history, or ethnic background. 

How is sodium measured?

  • 28 grams = one ounce

  • 1 gram = 1,000 milligrams

  • 5.5 grams of sodium = 1 teaspoon

What foods are high in sodium?

Most foods contain some sodium, but sodium is often added during the processing of prepared and prepackaged food products. Some examples of foods that are high in sodium include the following:

  • Meats, such as bacon, breakfast sausage, ham, cold cuts (bologna), Canadian bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, Polish and Italian sausages

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

  • Canned foods, such as vegetables, soups, vegetable and tomato juices

  • Prepared or premixed products, such as boxed macaroni and cheese, potato mixes, TV dinners, frozen entrees

  • Snacks, such as salted crackers, pretzels, potato chips, commercially prepared baked goods (for example, cookies and doughnuts)

  • Other foods, such as olives, pickles, commercially prepared salad dressings, soy and steak sauces, and cheeses

Many food products that are commercially prepared are now available with lower sodium content. When buying food products, be sure to check the labels for the symbol Na or NaCl, or the words sodium or sodium chloride that indicate sodium is present.

Other spices and herbs can be substituted for salt to add flavor. Salt substitutes are also available. Consult your doctor or a registered dietitian for more tips on how you can manage the sodium in your diet.