Hayley's Healthy Habits: Sodium and Your Health

December 12, 2023

The following article was written by Hayley Jackson, DNP, MSN, FNP-BC. A board-certified family nurse practitioner, Hayley provides Express Care Services at Wood River Health. She is passionate about holistic patient-centered care, lifestyle medicine and women’s health.

Snow, expensive heating bills, and excess sodium—all of which are a guarantee during the holiday season for those who don’t depart to a warmer state this winter. While tasty holiday treats are among life’s greatest joys it is worthwhile to learn about the effect of sodium on one’s health.

Sodium (or salt) is a nutrient that is essential to one’s overall health, but is unfortunately, often in excess within a typical American diet. In the body, sodium is key to many healthy functions; we will focus on fluid balance. When in excess, high levels of sodium can cause the body to hold onto extra fluid. This can increase blood pressure, cause or worsen swelling, and for some people can contribute to fluid build up within the lungs and other parts of the body. The World Health Organization (2023) recommends limiting salt intake to less than 2,000 mg per day for adults. Surprisingly, this can be difficult to do.

To limit salt intake, one must be aware of their diet. Sodium is often used in fast food, processed, canned, and frozen foods. It can hide very well! One may be surprised to learn that it’s often added to raw meats and cheeses. Once one starts reading food labels it can seem to be everywhere!

As a general approach, it is great to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low sodium dairy or dairy-free alternatives. At first, it is useful to simply start paying attention to labels and noting how much salt is in typical foods. Minimizing foods that come in a can, box, or frozen (unless it is just fruits or veggies) is a great way to limit salt intake or focusing on low sodium options. While perfection is difficult to achieve, any effort to decrease excessive salt intake can make a significant difference in high blood pressure and one’s overall health. For this reason, it may be worth leaving the saltshaker in the cupboard this holiday season.


World Health Organization. (2023, 9 14). Sodium reduction.


Health advice should be personalized, and specific recommendations should be discussed between you and your healthcare provider. This is intended to provide overall general education and should not be used as specific personalized health advice.