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Too Much Salt is Harmful!
Eating too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for a heart attack and stroke.
Salt is a combination of two minerals (sodium and chloride). People often use the words salt and sodium to mean the same thing when talking about food.
How Much Salt Should I Eat?
Adults should eat no more than 2300 mg of sodium daily. Many people need to be even more careful and eat no more than 1500 mg daily. Sticking to 1500 mg per day is especially important if:
- you are 51 years of age or older
- you are African American
- you have high blood pressure
- you have diabetes
- you have chronic kidney disease
Most Restaurant Meals and processed Foods are Packed with Salt
Your salt shaker is not the main problem. In fact, only a small amount of the sodium we eat comes from salt added while cooking or eating. Most of the salt we eat - almost 80%! - is already in the food you buy, such as pre-packaged, processed, prepared and restaurant foods.
How can I Best Reduce the Amount of Sodium I Eat?
- Check for sodium on food labels before you buy:
- A food with less than 50 mg sodium per serving is very low in sodium
- A food with more than 250 mg sodium per serving is high in sodium
- Look for entrees with no more than 480 mg sodium per serving
- Compare the amount of sodium in different brands. Many foods that appear to be the same have very different sodium levels.
- Choose the brand with the lower sodium level.
These public educational materials were adapted from an original campaign produced by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
What Else Can I do to Reduce the Sodium I Eat?
- Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned
- If you have to use canned foods, rinse the food three times in water. This will remove about 1/3 of the salt
- Choose fresh meats: cold cuts, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs are processed foods and most have a lot of sodium
Look for Foods Marked "Low Sodium" and "No Salt Added"
- It is especially important to look for low-sodium condiments and salad dressings, which can be packed with sodium
Prepare More Meals at Home
- When you cook at home, you control the amount of salt that goes in your food. Find heart-healthy recipes at the American Heart Association website.
- Ask to see the nutritional information for menu items in restaurants before ordering, and ask that your food be prepared without added salt.
- Talk to your school, work, grocery stores and favorite restaurants about providing more options that are lower in sodium
Which Foods Tend to be Highest in Sodium?
- cold cuts
- salami, pepperoni
- hot dogs
- salad dressing
- soy sauce
- some seasonings
- garlic salt
- onion salt
- Cajun spice blends
- bread and rolls
- canned vegetables
- canned meats
- pasta meal kits
- tomato or spaghetti sauce
- frozen meals (pizza, stir fry, TV dinners)
What is the Difference Between Table Salt, Sea Salt, and Kosher Salt?
Table salt, sea salt, and kosher salt have the same amount of sodium. This means that one kind is not healthier than the others. Here are the main differences:
Grain size: Very small
How it is used: In salt shakers, for baking and seasoning
Fun fact: All minerals are removed from table salt, and chemicals are added so the grains do not stick together.
Grain size: Both small and large
How it is used: Cooking and seasoning
Fun fact: Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water. Many times, extra minerals from sea water are left behind and give sea salt a stronger flavor and off-white color.
How it is used: Cooking and seasoning
Fun fact: Kosher salt itself is not kosher (meaning it doesn't conform to Jewish food laws), but it is used to make meat kosher, which is how it got its name.
What is the Difference Between Salt and Sodium?
Salt is a combination of two minerals (sodium and chloride), so sodium is a part of salt. Sodium is considered the unhealthy part of salt. People often use the words salt and sodium to mean the same thing when talking about food and nutrition.
What Does it Mean When a Food Package Says "Low Sodium?"
There are very strict rules about what companies can say about the amount of sodium in a food. Here are the phrases you may see on the front of the label, and what they mean.
- Sodium-free or salt-free: Each serving contains less than 5 mg of sodium.
- Very low sodium: Each serving contains 35 mg of sodium or less.
- Low sodium: Each serving contains 140 mg of sodium or less.
- Reduced or less sodium: The product contains at least 25 percent less sodium than the regular version.
- Lite or light in sodium: The product contains at least 50 percent less sodium than the regular version.
- Be sure to check the labels on "reduced" and "light" sodium products to see how much sodium is in a serving - it still could be quite a lot!
- Unsalted or no salt added: No salt is added during processing of a food that normally contains salt. Some foods with these labels may still be high in sodium because some of the other ingredients may be high in sodium.
Compare Labels. Choose Less Sodium PSA:
- Compare Labels. Choose Less Sodium PSA file size 2MB (15 seconds)
- Compare Labels. Choose Less Sodium PSA - Spanish file size 2MB (15 seconds)
- Compare Labels. Choose Less Sodium PSA - Portuguese file size 2MB (15 seconds)
- CDC Salt Matters Preserving Choice, Protecting Health
(These are closed captioned, the viewer must click 'cc' on the bottom of the YouTube video)
For information and resources about high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:
For More Information on Salt/Sodium
- Choose Less Sodium Fact Sheet
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Salt
- American Heart Association - Shake Your Salt Habit
- For healthy recipes and ways to become more active, visit: Mass in Motion
Sodium Reduction Resources for Food Manufacturers, Distributors, and Restaurants
- National Salt Reduction Initiative
- Sodium Reduction: Where are we now?
- Institute for Food Technologists
This information is provided by the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and Control Program within the Department of Public Health.