Eating Well As You Get Older

Frequently Asked Questions

21. Should I limit the amount of sodium I consume?

Sodium is consumed in the diet as part of salt. Older adults should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily (about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt). This helps to keep your blood pressure under control and lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.

Ways to cut back on sodium include keeping the salt shaker off the table and replacing salt with herbs, spices, and low-sodium seasonings when you cook. Also, eat fewer snack foods, and ask for low-sodium dishes and for sauces on the side when you eat out. When you shop, choose foods labeled "low sodium," "reduced sodium," "sodium free," or "unsalted."

Read the Nutrition Facts label on food packages to find out how much sodium a product contains. Different brands of foods that look the same can contain very different amounts of sodium.

(Note: The FDA recently proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label to reflect the latest scientific information linking diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Proposed updates include a new design that better highlights key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes.)

A diet rich in potassium can reduce the effects of salt on blood pressure. Older adults should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily from food sources. Sources of potassium include fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, greens, beans and peas, and tomato products. Potassium is also found in all yogurt and milk -- including low-fat and fat-free versions -- and in fish such as halibut, Pacific cod, yellow fin tuna, and rainbow trout.