Reading food labels
Most packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts label. This will tell you how much sodium is in one serving of food.
Here are some tips to help you.
- Look at both the serving size and the sodium amount.
Food labels list the amount of sodium for each serving. The serving size is located at the top of the label, usually right under the "Nutrition Facts" title. The amount of sodium is given in the list under the title. It is given in milligrams (mg).
- Check the serving size carefully.
A single serving is often very small. If you eat more than the serving size, you have eaten more sodium than is listed for one serving. For example, maybe the label says that there are 400 mg of sodium in a 1-cup serving. If you eat two servings (2 cups), that is 800 mg of sodium.
- Look at the Percent Daily Value.
The Nutrition Facts label also gives you the Percent Daily Value for sodium. This is how much of the recommended amount of sodium a serving contains. The daily value for sodium is 2,300 mg. So if the Percent Daily Value says 50%, this means one serving is giving you half of this, or 1,150 mg.
- Know that sodium has different names.
Other names for sodium include:
- Monosodium glutamate, also called MSG.
- Sodium citrate.
- Sodium caseinate.
- Sodium benzoate.
- Disodium phosphate.
- Know what sodium terms mean.
Labels on foods often claim that the food is "low-sodium" or something similar. Look for foods labeled "no salt added."
- "Unsalted" means there is no sodium added to the food. But the food may still contain sodium naturally.
- "Sodium-free" means a serving has less than 5 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
- "Very low sodium" means a serving has 35 mg or less of sodium.
- "Low sodium" means a serving has 140 mg or less of sodium.
- "Reduced-sodium" means that there is 25% less sodium than what the food normally has. This is still usually too much sodium.
Current as of: May 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator