Nutrition Articles

Shakin' It Up with the Skinny on Salt

The Danger is Not in the Shaker

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The keys to watching our sodium levels are to be aware of which foods have a high sodium content and to limit how much of those foods we eat. Practice checking the nutrition facts labels of packaged foods for the exact sodium content per serving. Some label terms can help our purchase decisions:


Term

Means

sodium free or salt free less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving
low sodium

140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving

reduced or less sodium at least 25% less sodium than the food’s standard serving
light sodium

50% less sodium than the food's standard serving

unsalted or no salt added

no salt added during processing, but could contain naturally occurring sodium


Steps to Reduce Your Sodium
  • Limit your use of the salt shaker. Try a shaker with smaller holes.
  • Substitute salt seasoning with other flavorings, such as onion, garlic, lemon, vinegar, black pepper, or parsley.
  • Choose fresh, frozen or canned vegetables without added salt.
  • Cook fresh or frozen fish, poultry and meat more often than canned or processed forms.
  • Compare the amounts of sodium in various brands of frozen dinners, packaged mixes, cereals, cheese, breads, salad dressings, soups and sauces. Sodium content varies widely among different brands.
  • Rinse canned beans and vegetables to remove added salt before cooking.
  • Choose foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium” or “sodium free.”
  • Know how much sodium is in your favorite condiments, especially soy sauce, steak sauce, ketchup and salsa. Limit your intake accordingly.
  • Avoid foods with MSG (monosodium glutamate), particularly when dining out. You can ask to have your meal prepared without MSG.
  • Try to limit your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams.
One thing that the experts do agree on is that getting a balanced diet with more fruits and vegetables is more important than obsessing over one ingredient, like sodium. So it’s good to be mindful of how much sodium you’re taking in, but concentrate more on an overall nutritious diet.
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About The Author

Laura Bofinger Laura Bofinger
As a freelance writer, Laura uncovers some kind of inspiration every day when she writes about health and fitness.

Member Comments

  • I always thought lowering salt consumption was good for everyone, but found out it caused nearly fatal problems for me. I have low blood pressure (as do my two children) and the lack of salt was causing me to black out several times a day. My doctor told me to be free with the salt shaker and make sure I never get dehydrated. - 2/18/2014 11:39:15 AM
  • I retain water very easily, so I do my best to keep my salt intake under 2,300 mg daily. It's hard, but if I have too much salt, my feet and ankles immediately balloon up. Now I use minimal salt when cooking and use other seasonings, as well as steering clear of sodium laden prepared foods. - 1/28/2014 7:13:42 PM
  • Great Article. Thanks for the salt kick. - 12/6/2013 4:50:43 PM
  • While I find it somewhat difficult to attain a lower consumption of salt its also important to note most of us DO NOT get enough calcium or POTASSIUM in our diets which tend to alleviate some of sodium's bad effects. - 11/14/2013 9:17:25 PM
  • I find all of these comments very helpful. I have switched to Sea Salt for my table and sometimes cooking. Usually I use Lawrys seasoning salt for better flavor with foods and I find I use way less to season with because it has other seasonings to enhance the flavor. An added plus is that it has less salt per serving than traditional salt.
    And I am not surprised they use tons of salt in sweet foods. That's how they addict you with the sugar and salty boosts you get from them. Yep , my big behind knows all about that. (Insert disgusted eye roll here) Now I am paying in spades trying to reverse the bad effects of that. - 6/21/2013 4:21:56 PM
  • When I leveled out in my weight loss, I wondered why I wasn't losing and noticed my sodium was on average 4000 mg per day on my reports. Started keeping track and now strive to keep it under 2300 mg. In 2 weeks I dropped 17 lbs! In 3 weeks my BP went from 171/101 to 162/82 and lost a total of 24 lbs.
    It is worth obsessing over! - 2/22/2013 10:08:11 AM
  • Thank you for th-is insightful reminder that the danger is not necessarily in the shaker.

    God bless!

    - 11/15/2012 3:30:27 PM
  • I've always watched my sodium intake; I've always been a label reader. - 11/15/2012 12:33:23 PM
  • My hypertension was from menopause and not from sodium.

    Be careful if you go the lite salt way, they usually have a high concentration of potassium which is not healthy either.

    I think if you are one of those that has heart or kidney problems, it's very important to cut down (or out) the processed food it has too many hidden everythings. I like a little salt and pepper on some things, but I've noticed if you buy the gourmet salts you tend to use less for more flavour. - 11/15/2012 3:54:40 AM
  • I think everyone does need to afraid of the salt shaker AND processes foods when statistics show that 90% of normotensive people at age 55, will still end up with a hypertension diagnosis! The two culprits.....salt and sedentary lifestyles. On rare occasions, and the numbers are small...folks will run into a hyponatremia problem....genera
    lly that is due to other causes rather than a diet low in sodium. Oh...no difference between sea salt and regular salt, except that sea salt is a little coarser...might be taking in less because of that. Salt is salt. - 2/28/2012 12:18:48 PM
  • The one food that shocked me most recently in terms of ADDED sodium ... is cottage cheese. I happen to like it and was eating it for a nice boost of protein. Turns out the amount of salt added to it is absurd. For a 4 oz portion, it goes from 45mg to 440mg. Seriously ... almost half a gram of salt added to a mere 4 oz cup.

    (Admittedly, no salt added cottage cheese is a bit bland until I add in fruit which I usually did anyway. So many better ways to add some zest than such a high amount of salt.) - 2/14/2012 2:42:01 PM
  • MARTY32M
    Hello, those links in my comment got mangled. The title of the article in Scientific American is "It's Time to End the War on Salt" and the JAMA article is titled "Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion and Risk of Cardiovascular Events". It might be easier to get to them (and to comments on them) by googling the titles than by trying to follow the mangled URLs. - 12/26/2011 11:51:11 AM
  • MARTY32M
    Don't let your sodium intake get too low. Recommendations for sodium intake below 2000mg/day should be taken with a grain of salt. Those recommendations are based on extremely weak evidence--see this article on the Scientific American website: http://www.scient
    ificamerican.
    com/article.c
    fm?id=its-tim
    e-to-end-the-war-on-salt. In a study published recently in JAMA, http://jama.ama-a
    ssn.org/conte
    nt/306/20/222
    9.abstract, people with sodium intake below 3000mg/day had a higher death rate than people who consumed between 4000mg/day and 6000mg/day. Over 7000mg/day is certainly too much, but you if you succeed in attaining an unrealistically low sodium intake you might not be getting enough. - 12/26/2011 11:47:15 AM
  • CCDRAGONFLY
    Human beings have 4 kinds of taste buds....one is salt. We are born to like the taste. As with every other article on nutrition, we are wise to take it with a grain of salt (forgive the pun). We need a certain amount of sodium to survive and not everyone needs to be afraid of the salt shaker. - 12/26/2011 8:33:36 AM
  • KMRIPPLE
    I've been following a low-salt diet for close to six months now due to health issues. I was told I could consume 2,000-2,500 mg of sodium a day and the ENT explained to me the danger of going too low on sodium. Some people need to consume 1,000 mg of sodium or less, but not everyone does.

    An easy way to calculate is to aim for 500 mg sodium at breakfast, 600 mg at lunch and dinner and 100 mg at two snacks during the day.

    I don't shun all prepackaged food. I don't have the time or energy to cook everything from scratch. If you keep your servings accurate, you can use some convenience foods as a complement to low sodium options to create meals. Cheese is a great example. If you don't drown your food in it, it can add flavor and saltiness to meals. By the way, Swiss is a wonderful low sodium alternative.

    When looking at sodium content in foods, what surprised me the most was the amount of sodium in sweet products. Several examples are pancake mix, instant pudding mix and cake mixes all have well over 400 mg of sodium per serving.

    Hope this helps. - 11/18/2011 10:32:27 AM

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