Low-Salt Eating Tips

Salt is sodium chloride so when reviewing food labels to determine salt content, look for sodium listings. Foods that are low in sodium (less than 140 mg or 5 percent of the Daily Value [DV] per serving) are low in salt.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is published every 5 years by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 2005 Guidelines recommend limiting daily sodium intake to 2300 milligrams (mg)  -- the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt.

The 2010 Guidelines report: "On average, the higher an individual's salt (sodium chloride) intake, the higher an individual's blood pressure. Nearly all Americans consume substantially more salt than they need. Decreasing salt intake is advisable to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure in the normal range reduces an individual's risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease."

These food selection, food preparation and eating tips can help you lower your daily sodium intake:

  • Use less salt and fewer high-sodium ingredients in food preparation
  • Read food labels carefully to determine sodium content; look for "unsalted," "sodium free," "low in sodium," "no salt added" and "reduced sodium" products; in addition, sodium content can vary greatly in similar foods . . . the sodium content in tomato soup may be 700 mg per cup in one brand and 1,100 mg per cup in another brand; also watch for hidden sodium in such seasonings and condiments as bouillon cubes, meat tenderizers, marinades, soy sauce and steak sauce 
  • Use low-sodium alternatives to season your food -- herbs, fruit juices, spices, herbed vinegars and herb rubs 
  • Choose fresh, less-processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, fresh meat and poultry; the sodium content of foods increases when they are processed 
  • Remove the salt shaker from your table
  • Reduce your consumption of high-salt snacks such as potato chips and pretzels; select fruits and vegetables instead, which are lower in calories and fat, and provide many more vitamins and minerals 

On average, the natural salt content of food accounts for 10 percent of total intake, while discretionary salt use -- salt added at the table or during cooking -- provides another 5 to 10 percent. Approximately 75 percent, however, is from salt added by manufacturers during food processing, so your food selections can dramatically reduce your salt consumption when you purchase more fresh, less-processed items and less sodium-dense foods -- pickled foods, canned vegetables and soups, snack foods, cured meats, packaged mixes, and frozen dinners.