Halt the Salt

Eating too much salt — also called sodium — can raise your blood pressure.

What does salt have to do with blood pressure?

Research shows that for most people salt has a direct dose-dependent impact on blood pressure. This means for most people as salt intake increases so does blood pressure. Reducing your salt intake should result in a reduced blood pressure within weeks.

Too much salt can be harmful

Because salt can increase your blood pressure, eating too much salt puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

Many times we do not realize how much salt we are eating. It is important to be salt aware of the sodium content in foods. Examples of food that may have more salt than you think:

  • Restaurant or take-out food
  • Processed or packaged foods (soups, canned vegetables, tomato sauce)
  • Preserved or cured meats
  • Condiments (salad dressing, ketchup, soy sauce, spice mixes, etc.)
  • Breads and rolls

Did you know that most of the salt we eat – almost 80%, comes from pre-packaged, processed, prepared, and restaurant foods.

How much salt is too much?

Most adults should eat no more than 2300 mg of sodium daily. Some people need to be more careful about how much salt they consume. You should eat no more than 1500 mg if you are:

  • 51 years of age or older
  • African American
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease

Always follow the advice of your healthcare provider.

What is the difference between salt and sodium?

Sodium and salt are not exactly the same but are often used interchangeably when talking about high blood pressure and food. 90% of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt.

Which foods are highest in sodium?

Processed Meats Cold cuts, Bacon, Salami, pepperoni, Sausage, Hot dogs
Condiments Salad dressing, Ketchup, Soy sauce, Pickles, Some seasonings, Garlic salt, Onion salt, Cajun spice blends
General Foods Soups, Bread and rolls, Cheese, Canned vegetables, Canned meats, Pasta meal kits, Tomato or spaghetti sauce, Frozen meals (pizza, stir fry, TV dinners)

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.

How can I reduce the amount of sodium I eat?

  • Cook meals at home – meals at restaurants generally have more sodium and more fat than you would use in a home cooked meal
  • Read the label on all packaged foods you buy – you want to aim for a daily value for sodium of 5% or less (Foods with 50mg of sodium/serving are very low in sodium and foods with 250mg of sodium/serving are very high in sodium)
  • Look for entrees with no more than 480 mg sodium per serving
  • Compare the amount of sodium in different brands- sometimes foods that appear to be the same have different sodium levels
  • Choose the option with lower sodium
  • Try frozen veggies instead of canned veggies
  • Look for low sodium options for chicken broth and other packaged foods

For more information on salt/sodium