Nutrition Articles

Easy Ways to Cut Sodium Intake

Improve Your Health by Reducing Your Salt Intake

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You consume sodium every single day, and that's a good thing! Our bodies need sodium to help maintain water and mineral balances and blood volume. But too much of a good thing (sodium in this case) can have negative effects on your health, such as an increased risk for high blood pressure (which contributes to heart disease and stroke). While most of us get enough sodium each day to meet our bodies' needs (about 1,500 milligrams), the average person consumes way too much! Experts recommend that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily—that's about 1 teaspoon of salt.

Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods that you eat every day, including meats, nuts, grains, and dairy. Salt and sodium are not the same things—but salt is made from sodium (and chloride). What you might not realize, however, is that “hidden” sodium found in processed foods (in the form of salt) makes up the largest proportion of the sodium that adults consume (in addition to any salt that you add yourself).

Cutting back on sodium is one action you can take to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and its related complications. Keep in mind that your taste buds are probably accustomed to a strong taste of salt, so limiting your consumption might take a little getting used to, but your health is worth it! Here are some sodium-cutting tips you can try today:
  • Introduce additional flavor to your foods with herbs and spices like garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, thyme and sesame. These all add flavor without the extra sodium. If a recipe calls for salt, cut the amount called for in half and taste it before adding more.
     
  • Make healthy choices at the grocery store. Processed foods (anything in a box or bag) tend to be high in sodium because it helps preserve foods longer and increase flavor. Always read labels for the foods you buy, including the sodium content on the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list.
     
  • Remember that "low-fat" or "low-calorie" doesn't mean healthy. These diet foods can also be higher in sodium because manufacturers hope that added sodium, a flavor-enhancer, will bring back the flavor that is missing since fat and other higher-calorie ingredients are removed. This is especially true for frozen dinners, which are often loaded with extra salt.
     
  • Choose low-, no- or reduced-sodium versions of your favorite soups, frozen meals, canned foods, and snacks. Even butter is available without added salt!
     
  • Choose fresh or frozen veggies over canned varieties, which often contain added salt to help increase shelf life. If you can't find sodium-free varieties of canned vegetables, rinse the can's contents in a colander under water before cooking to remove excess salt.
     
  • Olives, pickles and other items packed in brine are saturated in salt, as are many smoked and cured meats, like salami and bologna. Limit your intake of these high-sodium foods and be on the lookout for lower-sodium varieties.
     
  • Fast foods are high in more things than just fat. Many of these meals, sandwiches and fries contain more than your daily recommended intake of sodium in just one serving. When consulting restaurant websites to make healthy choices, pay attention to sodium levels as well. By keeping your portions in check (order a junior burger or small French fry instead of the big burgers and super fries) will help control your sodium (and caloric) intake.  Continued ›
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • I use almost exclusively whole foods, never add salt to anything, and I go over my sodium intake at least six days a week. - 1/15/2016 10:48:06 AM
  • I rarely go over in sodium because a doctor taught me 30 years ago how to control it. I have cooked with a lot of herbs for years. Recently I discovered the flavor of unsalted butter is actually better than salted. (My husband accidentally picked up a 4-pack of unsalted and two of my adult kids told me they use it most of the time because they like it.) - 12/18/2015 9:48:12 PM
  • Sodium intake continues to be a challenge for me while dining out. The sodium in restaurant food is truly shocking! Food prepared at home is not the challenge. I am a label reader and have set many an item back on the shelf because of its sodium content. History of hypertension in the family. Something I need to watch. - 12/16/2015 10:41:15 AM
  • SANDISECRETS
    I am surprised that I am always over on my sodium levels. I DO use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.I did have a homemade soup today. Is the computer just judging that I automatically had so much sodium? - 12/15/2015 11:34:54 PM
  • That list is a real eye opener and rather scary! What a bummer!
    I've been struggling with swelling in my feet for about a year. It's driving me crazy. - 9/23/2015 10:24:11 PM
  • I was surprised reading that chart. Never realized baking soda was high salt content, even several times more than saltine crackers. Thanks for the information in that chart.

    There are some things I have eaten lately that I never thought of checking the salt content of, like turkey sausage. My feet and ankles really swell up when I eat that. I don't eat it real often, but I do get a craving for it once in a while and it is quick to fix when I don't have anything thawed. - 8/13/2015 3:21:48 PM
  • Reducing sodium can be a challenge. Configure Sodium into intake summary for SparkPeople.com daily diet tracker. This is how I first learned from experience which
    foods I was eating added to my daily salt total. Outcome I discarded the salt shaker.
    Now I keep pepper and a dried herb mix near where I cook for flavorings.

    Another useful tool is preparing grocery shopping list at the store website, for example peapod.com for Stop and Shop. Here you can configure an icon that will indicate low sodium foods right alongside high level sodium foods. Pretty soon I learned which favorite food items were available as low in salt: Ketchup, tomato sauce (no salt added), deli meats, etc. - 8/13/2015 10:38:14 AM
  • LILYOFVALEE
    I also have had negative effects from reducing sodium. I get nauseated and have a headache until I eat something salty. I have never had an issue with high blood pressure (although I have had low blood pressure, which is not improved by increased salt intake). Although my sodium is tracked, I don't worry about it. - 2/16/2015 2:38:10 PM
  • MCAT_LOVELESS
    I agree with the comments below about the dangers of low salt intake.

    The body generally knows what it needs. If food is made at home with sea salt and you crave more salt, you generally need more in your diet. You also need more salt and potassium when you are sweating heavily to keep your electrolytes at the appropriate level. Eating no-salt on a hot day will literally kill you or give you are heart attack. If you drink a bit of salt water and you can't taste the salt, you need more salt to keep your electrolytes up.

    I also have low blood pressure and low stomach acid. If I ate as little salt as is recommended here I would be very ill (and have been in the past from trying to be "healthy").

    This comment doesn't apply to the insane amounts of iodized salt in processed foods. Somehow they managed to add astronomical amounts of sodium without you tasting it in the product. Because of this, I am a big supporter of cooking from scratch. - 2/9/2015 11:05:50 PM
  • JAYSWIENER
    I'm very surprised at the many inaccuracies in this article. The vast majority of modern research studies show that; for the great majority of people, a high sodium diet will have no effect at all. None. Here is a much better article on sodium: http://www.weight
    zonefactor.co
    m/blog/you-ca
    n-stop-worryi
    ng-about-salt-heres-why/ - 11/27/2014 2:31:00 PM
  • HELENA911
    I do not know where my sodium is coming from. I am eating fruits and veggies no can goods or prepackage. - 6/15/2014 7:01:35 PM
  • i splurged with a costco hot dog and soda for $1.50, kept on" not tracking" till the end of the day. when i finally tracked my food i had consumed 5,975 grams of salt. wow, thats terrible.
    no wonder my ankles swelled up - 5/5/2014 1:36:10 PM
  • MOMSDIET041
    do i watch more for my calories or salt in take if I want to lose weight with hypotension. - 4/13/2014 1:31:37 PM
  • MOMSDIET041
    Have to start late on this diet came close a heart attach scary - 4/13/2014 1:25:32 PM
  • Good information. Thanks - 12/12/2013 6:14:02 AM

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