Keeping Sodium Levels Low Isn’t So Easy

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I do a lot of cooking, and I try to pick recipes that are healthy and I think my family will enjoy.  Any time I make something that’s lower in sodium, I can tell right away.  My first instinct is to grab the salt shaker because I like salt.  But I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to limit the salt I add to my food for a few reasons:  I want to set a good example for my kids, and I know that I already get too much salt in my diet without adding more.  A new report from the Centers for Disease Control says the majority of Americans consume too much salt in their diet.
The report says that 9 out of 10 people ages 2 and older eat more than the recommended amount of sodium each day.  What might surprise you is where the sodium is coming from.  It’s not chips and other salty snacks, but rather foods like bread (which can contain as much as 230 mg of sodium per slice).  If you eat a few pieces or more each day, those numbers can really add up.
For the average person with no health conditions or risk factors, the recommended limit is 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily.  For those with high blood pressure and other risk factors, it’s 1,500 milligrams per day.  The average American consumes about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day, not including additional salt they add to their food.  If you’re not already aware of how much sodium you’re consuming daily, chances are it’s too much. 
“The report identified the top 10 sources of sodium in our diets, which include a lot of food we find tasty. These are, in order: breads and rolls, luncheon meats, pizza, poultry, soups, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes such as meat loaf, and snack foods like potato chips and pretzels. These foods account for 44 percent of all the sodium we eat in a day.  About 65 percent of our total daily sodium comes from foods we buy at the store. But within some of the food categories, such as pizza, about 50 percent comes from foods we buy at restaurants and fast food outlets.”
Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods that you eat every day, including meats, nuts, grains, and dairy.  These can all be considered part of a healthy diet.  Since the majority of the sodium we consume is found in processed foods like crackers and lunchmeat, it’s important to read labels at the grocery store.  Can you pick a jar of spaghetti sauce that’s lower in sodium but tastes just as good?  Can you avoid or limit those foods that contribute the most sodium to your diet?  Eating a diet lower in processed foods but high in fruits and vegetables will help keep those sodium levels in check.
Looking for more easy ways to cut your sodium intake?  Find out the skinny on salt and learn how to use herbs and spices to spark up your food.
Do you try to watch your sodium intake?  Do you have any tips that might help others struggling with it? 

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WE do not Add salt to anything. Try to buy no salt added canned Goodson, butstill go over daily limit probably twice a week when tracking Report
SPIRIT42017A 11/17/2020
Because of heart failure, I am limited to less than 1500 mg salt daily .I wish that I could find foods (soups) with less sodium that don't cost an arms & a leg. I end up cooking my own low salt concoctions. Report
JWINKSLLC 10/10/2020
Thank you for this important info! Report
Some important information Report
RYCGIRL 3/26/2020
thx Report
KHALIA2 3/12/2020
I do watch my salt intake, orders from my doctor! Report
Lots of people rely on over salting food and are numb to the actual taste of food. I hate it when I cok and somebody slathers salt all over ir without tasting. I don't keep salt on the table at all! Report
thank you Report
My go to salt substitute to use on veggies is no sodium lemon pepper. It is great on all squashes, summer and winter types, tomatoes, potatoes, green salads, etc. I sometimes add a measured tablespoon of grated parmesean, which equals 17 g of sodium for 4 servings. Enjoy! Report
good article Report
In recent years, I limit sodium CHLORIDE ("table salt" - which is sodium plus chloride) - from what I am researching, the chloride is the actual culprit. Himilayian and/or Celtic Sea Salts are a MIXTURE of MANY mineral salts - all in the proper ratios in relation to each other (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calciums, some 60-80+ different mineral salts.). I feel MUCH better "salting to taste" with those types of salts, and really don't need much. A little of those goes a long way. Plus, flavoring with lemons, limes, natural apple cider vinegar etc will give one that flavor punch that we are looking for in "salty" and they are also much healthier. My blood pressure ranges are always in the healthy range, and my doctors do look at my orthomolecular levels to make sure I'm not " too high in sodium " (they also support Himalayan or Celtic sea salts etc. I get my iodine from those little sheets of seaweed snacks like you find at health food stores - very low calorie but high in iodine. My doctor was very pleased with my iodine levels after building up my nutritional levels devastated by chemotherapy. He asked what I was doing for iodine and was very pleased that I was taking seaweed, just regular food snacks, as well as the Celtic sea salts. So I guess... it's working for me, no need to fix what ain't broke!! Report
I was diagnosed with hypertension in Nov. 2009 and by cutting down on Sodium, I was able to get off the medication in 2010. Along w/that, I was diagnosed w/type 2 diabetes. I cut out all processed foods (which have sodium anyhow), the 'whites' -- white bread, white potatoes, white rice, sugar, white flour).

I was able to get off of diabetic meds in 2011. I have become a label reader to boot and do all my own cooking. When out, of course, all that can be done is make the best choices.

Great article. Report
Thank you Report
Been using non table salt for awhile. It really helps Report
So it's always comes back to we have to cook for ourselves, instead of going out. Hard to do in this VERY social life, we are living! Report
salt is not the bad guy, read the label of salt and you will also see sugar in the salt too. At least that is what I read a while ago and now just get the Himalaya salt Report
Yes, SODIUM IS the hardest out of EVERYTHING I TRACK to stay in the acceptable 500-2300 range!! Report
WOW! Some of these tips were "eye shockers". especially about the bread. Report
good points Report
Some foods I was surprised were so high in sodium: Salad dressings, frozen grilled cooked chicken, jerky, healthy frozen meals like Kashi. Report
I have written letters to grocery stores to request more low sodium foods. I enjoy the "salty snacks" but I find them all way too salty. How I wish that they could be offered in Low salt variety. I always buy low sodium products when available. I love pretzels, but I buy the no salt kind. I wish I could buy the pretzel rods with little or no salt. When I buy them, I scrape the salt off as much as I can with a sharp edged knife. Mixes like rice a roni are way too salty so I add plain rice and extra water to dilute the sodium. It tastes much better in my opinion, and there is the health advantage---be it slight. Bacon is now available in low sodium packages--- so when I have a bacon treat, that is the kind I buy.
If only the salty chips, pretzels etc. could have one third the salt, I would much prefer this, and perhaps many others would also. In recipes I reduce the salt ingredient significantly--- and taste is still great. Report
I have been watching my sodium because of hypertension. It is unusual for me to not be above guidelines on my daily feedback. I have stopped eating salty snacks (popcorn, pretzels, chips, crackers etc) and have mostly cut out cheese (although I really like it). I generally eat fresh (not canned) vegetables and few prepared meals. I know that bread and milk have a fair amount of sodium as do some vegetables but somedays it seems impossible to stay within the guidelines.

I know that I'm doing better than when I was eating all that salty stuff but it's such a pain sometimes.

What have other people done? Report
I tend to omit salt in recipes (I never seem to follow them to a T anyhow) especially if there are other ingredients such as cheese or tortillas or some other type of food/ingredient which I know already contains enough sodium. This way I figure if it needs a little more salt for taste at the end my husband can sprinkle some on and I don't have to. It seems to work well in my tracker and I come in under the 2300 mg on most days.

I also have been working to reduce/ eliminate most processed foods and take out (stupid Chipotle and their exorbitant amount of sodium!!) from our diet. It's not always the easiest thing, but I'm worth it! And I remember cutting out the salt shaker from my diet when I was around 10, once your taste buds adjust its not so bad, and you actually come to find that the foods you used to love SOOO much due to their saltiness have become OVERLY salty and aren't as good as you once thought. Just my 2 cents on the subject =) Report
I struggle with this big time too. I do not want to end up on blood pressure pills. Oatmeal is great. Something called Coco wafers I use for bread if I need it. (It's great with Nutella for my occasional sweet tooth.) I hope to keep finding new foods that help and are tasty! Report
That is something that I have been keeping an eye lately. It hasn't been easy. Report
The sodium thing is interesting. Now, I'm not saying that most people shouldn't try to limit their sodium intake. Not eating excessive sodium is probably better for most people (in general) than eating excessive sodium. However, I have read studies before that point out that in certain cultures the cuisines tend to be very, very high in sodium. Yet, there isn't a high blood pressure epidemic in these populations. Report
Obviously, some people skipped right over the caveat:

"For the average person with no health conditions or risk factors, the recommended limit is 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily. For those with high blood pressure and other risk factors, it’s 1,500 milligrams per day."

Note that says AVERAGE person with NO health conditions or risk factors. I can't believe someone jumped right in with "don't post articles like this because I have this health condition that requires I eat more sodium." Well, yeah, that's because this article does not apply to you, because you are not an AVERAGE person with NO health conditions or risk factors!!!

For the vast majority of people, we need to drastically reduce our sodium intake. The research is there, and has been done for several decades, about how much our increased sodium intake is linked to some really serious health issues.

This of course does not apply to the very small minority of people who may have health conditions which require them to consume more sodium. But MOST of us will increase our health if we REDUCE and RESTRICT sodium. The research is all out there. (Just don't trust the research backed by the Salt Institute. Umm, hello? Why would the Salt Institute, interested in selling more and more salt, ever recommend cutting back? Of course they will fund studies which "appear" to "prove" that we need more sodium.

The piece most people miss is that while decreasing sodium, most people will also do better if they increase their intake of higher-potassium foods (fresh fruits and veggies and legumes). Most. Again, not for those with certain FEW health issues that preclude them. But MOST people will find their health increase when they restrict sodium and increase their consumption of potassium-containing foods.

GREAT article! Thanks for posting it! We really need to get the word out about how bad sodium is for the vast majority of people. NOT the few with certain health issues, but for MOST of us! Report
Be careful with reporting on medical-related information and not presenting the full picture. Some people require increased salt in their diet. I have very low blood pressure and I need to consume beyond the daily recommended 2,300mg per day to help. When I drop below, I risk suddenly passing out.

I found out I had low BP after I passed out (without injury, thankfully). When I was told I needed to consume more salt for it, I was afraid to do so because of an overwhelming majority of blogs and articles like this, always railing against the evils of salt.

Salt is detrimental for the health some people and good for others, but all in all, it is a necessity for the functions of our bodies. Report
Sodium has always been hard for me. I try to gauge the sodium by staying with items with less than 140mg of sodium, but that is very difficult. As in everything, moderation is what I strive for, as you cannot completely eliminate it. Report
This has always been a hard one for me... Report
This is the one thing I have the hardest time not going over on. Report
I haven't cut out salt, nor intend to, but am more conscious of it and have cut back quite a bit. Some days are still saltier than others, but I'm working on that. I also read the entire nutritional label now as opposed to only the calories and fat. It is surprising how much salt you can take in with very little food, particularly if it is frozen. Report
i never wasoneforlotsoflsalt but diduset now dnquite sometime i only usegverylittle adnoneon myeggs iaddheeese shreddedaisploenty slatthere but if iamcooking spaghetti before adding other sauces ido addtinybit slt nottogettht flattast but ifcookingalfroscrtch akesadifference but if iamcooking anneedssalt iprefretouse dsried lotsofties garlic onion italianherbs evendried lsts adndont spoil aldnnow idonotmisstehslt taste adniuseitsparingly but notanymoreatthtabe corse eggs adn mashedpotaotes are veryunpladsnst totehpallat withoutsalt. .smiles but onlowincome needtoimporvoiealot buyingon makrkeddownprices etc adnive stoedoucasof pastasauces alltreegecanasfor liekadollar aan. adnmkeitstretch btumysonrally strethesit cooksup whlepkg notsure howmuh but ustaddwholecan adn tehsucestickstopasta adnnone tht i s really saucy lol. isomstimeshavetoadd bitmore oraddbasill adn drychoppedonion and drycohopped grlicadnimprovestehflavor wholebunches. soetimeseven freshcelery leaves i fivebougthenanycelery lately adnipik buch iwhtlotsofleaves. have fun cooking sofarnow icook sneeded btu notasmuchinsummer whtnistoo hotot turnonthestove. smiles to you all. Report
I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure a few years ago. I was reading labels but I accomodated others and ate what was in front of me. In 2008, I received an artificial heart valve to replace an older model. The hospital placed me on a cardiac diet for my inpatient stay. I learned very quickly what combinations of food I could eat in a 24 hour period under the imposed limitations. I made more of an effort after discharge but still did not speak up or ask questions. In the years since with a combination of Fitbit and SparkPeople, I have started tracking my food every day and realizing that when I do eat more salt than usual, my body gains weight and I feel like I am running on 3 cylinders. I am more aware of the salty taste in foods and will speak up to avoid excess salt. Report
If you just drink water and cook your own food, out of real foods, you won't have any issues with sodium. High quality salt (as in, not the iodized stuff from a canister), especially sea salts, have a LOT of health benefits, including containing important minerals, helping to regulate potassium levels, and helping to maintain proper hydration levels.

The issue isn't even really the sodium, it's the awful preservatives that contain the sodium. Preservatives are in all of processed foods mentioned, but not in whole foods. Americans eat so many preservatives these days that our bodies don't even decompose at the same rate as other bodies after dying. So just don't eat as much canned, frozen, and factory-made frankenfoods, and you'll be fine!

Also, whenever I don't think a dish is salty enough, I add a little acid before salting it. A splash of red wine or cider vinegar or a squeeze of citrus will brighten the flavor of a dish and kick your mouth into overdrive, much as salt does only with more health benefits. Report
It's been more than 15 years since sodium as a risk factor for high blood pressure was debunked, and it amazes me how many supposedly "health informed" people are completely ignorant of that.. Most people don't need to worry about extra sodium in their diets. The danger of continuing to tie sodium intake to high blood pressure in the "common wisdom" is high. People with high blood pressure think that they can lower their sodium intake and they'll be OK. Then they never get to the real causes of the condition ... too much weight and too little exercise, among a few other things. Report
My rule of thumb (echo's oceanmarty) if it was processed it does not fit in my low sodium diet very well. IE A typical soup and sandwich combo with lunch meat and cheese serving can be 1k to 2k of sodium easy. I Find if I avoid processed foods, I easily make my goal of 1,000 mg a day or less.

And now as prices rise, a new,unwanted way to add sodium to your diet, a lot of fresh chicken breasts carry the following small type in the ad's "up to a 15% flavoring solution added" IE Sodium. And yet they still call it "Natural" ;-( Used to be only the frozen, bulk breasts were treated that way, now you can pay 3x as much and get organic and avoid the unneeded additives.
Eat what grows on a plant, not things made in a plant Report
It's tough to stay under the daily recommend amounts. I try to stay away from processed foods, limit eating out, rinse canned vegetables, and never cook with it anymore. I swell up like a balloon if I consume too much. My coworker laughs at my snack drawer because it is all salt free or at least reduced. Report
I stopped using salt a couple years ago and my blood preasure has dropped from 240 to 141. I have to admit it wasnt just the salt it was diet and exercise along with it. The good part is now I dont add salt to anything on my pplate and use very little when cooking. And I can tell you once you get used to little or no salt you will talt the natural salt in most foods (at least I can). Report
Read the labels. Stay away from salt/sodium as much as possible. There are alot of spices out there that are very tastefull and not sodium. Report
In August of 2009 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease.

It shouldn't have been a suprise seeing as my mom had been diagnosed with the same thing when she was younger.

I immediately consulted a dietician at my mom's dialysis center to set me on the right path. She gave me a booklet from the American Association of Kidney Patients that is a nutrition counter. It lists pretty much all the foods and their sodium, protein,calories and portion sizes.

was completely shocked at the amount of sodium. My morning staple had always been a blueberry muffin (which I now cannot have) it has 251mg in a 2 oz serving. I am allowed only 200mg per serving and less would be better.

Needless to say, my whole outlook on food had to change. I now do not eat processed foods and I make my own salt-free mixes of spices. I even made one to take with me if we go out to eat. That way I will not be tempted to use salt because I already have my own better tasting version.

I don't cook with any salt whatsoever and even my husband has cut back because he likes the taste of my homemade spices better. Report
Since HBP can kill I do believe this important information to be very aware of....
This is a great informative blog. We do need to read labels! I have been tracking sodium on my tracker. It is amazing the hidden high sodium places that in my opinion are not even necessary. Thanks for the info! Report
I have high blood pressure and take 2 H/P medications for it. I do not add any salt at the table. My main meal comes from Meals On Wheels. Some of the food has no salt on it and some has salt on it. So I do the best I can to keep any additional salt on of my diet. I read labels at the store also. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
I am on HBP medication and your info was helpful. I needed to know the info about sodium level for HBP1-1500. I am going to add this to my tracker. I needed this info two weeks ago. Report
Great Reminder. Report
In case some haven't tried it nutritional yeast is a great way to get a salty taste into many different dishes while adding very little sodium. I use it any time i would have used parmesan cheese before I went vegan. Report
First step is to read labels, second step is when selecting canned foods, choose the ones that say "no salt added". We have two American Heart Association cookbooks that use spices and foods natural flavors to make delicious meals! Buying fresh foods too is a great way to preserve flavor so you don't need much salt to "revive" the flavor. Some foods are just better when fresh compared to fronzen. Report
A previous poster expressed concern about 'one more thing to worry about,' which I can sympathize with--though I prefer to think of it as one more thing to be AWARE of. Until people start b**ching loudly, food companies have no reason to limit the salt in the foods they produce. Ever since I saw that canned corn and peas have added SUGAR, I've been aware of just how much junk gets added sneakily in the strangest places.

So I'm glad to continue checking on the sodium content of things I eat--and to stay away from sauces, etc. at restaurants. (no one adds salt to the romaine on the salad bar--yet--do they?) Or to coffee? maybe there's hope for the flowers yet. Report
The first thing I check on a label is sodium, not fat and not calories. I have no desire to start taking meds. Because of this I have completely stopped buying frozen meals, which I used to eat 4-5 lunches a week and 3 dinners a week.

Spark has caused me to totally change my eating! Yeay! Now I make most every breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is the only way to keep my intake below 1500mg. Report