Everything you Need to Know to Lower Your Sodium Intake

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By : dLife Editors

Is it time to slash the salt? If everyone in America cut their salt intake to no more than 1,500 mg a day (the equivalent of 2/3 of a teaspoon), 16 million cases of high blood pressure would be prevented every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

But you’re an individual, not a statistic. Should you cut back on your own salt intake? The research says yes — if you fall into one of these categories:

You have diabetes or prediabetes

You have high blood pressure or prehypertension

You have kidney disease or are at high risk for it

You’re a post-menopausal woman

You’re African-American

You’re over age 40

Is that you and most people you know? According to a study from the CDC, nearly 70 percent of all adult Americans need to cut back on their salt intake — a lot. Even if you don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other health problem, you might be just naturally sensitive to salt.

Researchers estimate that one in four people are “salt sensitive” and this makes them more likely to die from heart attacks.

Today the average American consumes some 3,400 mg — the equivalent of about 2 1/2 teaspoons — of salt every day. Just about every healthy authority agrees that’s way too much. Organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Institute of Medicine recommend an upper limit of 1,500 mg (2/3 of a teaspoon).

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines  states, “Healthy eating patterns limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day for adults and children ages 14 years and older and to the age- and sex-appropriate Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) of sodium for children younger than 14 years.” The new guidelines also state that for individuals with prehypertension and hypertension “further reduction to 1,500 mg per day can result in even greater blood pressure reduction.”

Is Salt Messing with Your Medicine?

Reducing salt intake may be necessary to make your prescription drugs work, too. About 20 to 30 percent of people with high blood pressure are resistant to drugs. Their blood pressure stays too high even though they might be taking three different medications to lower it. If you’re in that group, you know how frustrating it is to take your pills faithfully and still see your numbers refuse to come down.

Studies suggest that a high-salt diet could be part of the problem. Too much salt may decrease the effectiveness of drugs used to treat patients with resistant hypertension.

In one study, a group of patients with resistant hypertension went on a low-salt diet for just one week — and saw their blood pressure drop by an average of nearly 23 points systolic (the top number) and 9 points diastolic (the bottom number). Their salt intake wasn’t extremely low. It was limited to half a teaspoon a day — close to the amount authorities recommend for everyone.

Where’s the Salt?

It’s not just a matter of hiding the salt shaker. Three-quarters of the salt in the average diet comes from restaurant food and processed foods such as soup, tomato sauce, snack foods, and canned foods.

That makes extra salt hard to avoid, but there are plenty of simple ways to cut back. Frozen vegetables, for instance, have far less salt — and usually more nutrition overall — than the canned versions.

You can use the percent daily values (%DV) for sodium (the culprit ingredient in salt) on the nutrition facts label of food packages to make better choices. Foods that are 5 percent or less of the %DV for sodium are low in salt; foods that are 20 percent or more are high in salt. If you mostly stick to foods that are 5 percent or less, your taste buds will hardly notice the difference, but your blood pressure might.

Salty Language

Many food manufacturers now offer lower-salt versions of their products. Be cautious here, though, and read the labels carefully. A lower-salt product may still contain more sodium than you want. Here’s what all those sodium claims on packages really mean.

If the package says:
It means:
Sodium-free; salt-free; no sodium Less than 5 mg per serving
Low in sodium; less sodium 140 mg sodium or less per serving
Reduced sodium; less sodium At least 25% less sodium than the original food, but the food could still be high in sodium
Light in sodium At least 50% less sodium than the original food
Very low sodium 35mg of sodium or less per serving
No salt added; unsalted No additional salt was added to the food during processing
Lightly salted 50% less sodium added during processing than normally added, but the food could still be high in salt


Lower Salt Swaps

Cut back on your salt intake by making these easy switches:

High Salt Lower Salt Alternative
Food Sodium per serving Food Sodium per serving
canned corn 320 mg/1 cup frozen corn 8 mg/1 cup
canned peas 428 mg/1 cup frozen peas 140 mg/1 cup
canned diced tomatoes 355 mg/1 cup no salt added canned diced tomatoes 2 mg/1 cup
canned chicken broth 960 mg/1 cup reduced sodium canned chicken broth 554 mg/1 cup
salted butter 16 mg/0.1 oz (1 pat) unsalted (sweet) butter 1 mg/0.1 oz (1 pat)
corn flakes 266 mg/ 1 oz shredded wheat 2 mg/1 oz
microwave popcorn 50 mg/1 cup plain popcorn 1 mg/1 cup
American cheese 405 mg/1 oz Colby cheese 171 mg/1 oz
low fat cottage cheese 918 mg/1 cup no salt added lowfat cottage cheese 29 mg/1 cup
full fat plain yogurt 113 mg/1 cup low fat plain yogurt 171 mg/1 cup
hot cocoa from mix 148 mg/6 oz hot cocoa (homemade) 98 mg/1 cup
Tater Tots (Ore-Ida) 420 mg/3 oz sweet potato fries (Ore-Ida) 160 mg/3 oz
dry roasted salted peanuts 230 mg/1oz dry roasted unsalted peanuts 0 mg/1 oz


Below is an example of a day’s dFriendly menu that would keep your sodium under control.

 2 8 oz mugs of coffee  10.2 mg
 3 fl oz half and half  37.1 mg
 3/4 cup plain, whole milk yogurt  84.5 mg
1 oz chopped, unsalted almonds (1 handful)  .28 mg
 1/2 packet Splenda 0 mg
 1/4 cup raspberries .31mg
 1 oz dark chocolate (about the size of a package of dental floss)  4.5 mg
 2 cups mixed salad greens, shredded  32.3 mg
 4 baby carrots 27.6 mg
1/2 cup sliced cucumber 1.2 mg
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled (about the size of four dice) 208.7 mg
 1 cup diced chicken breast 71 mg
 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil  .41 mg
 Juice from 1/2 a lemon  .24 mg
 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted soybeans  1.7 mg
 6 oz grilled salmon (about the size of two checkbooks stacked on top of each other) 95.2 mg
1 cup steamed broccoli 64 mg
1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce 266.6 mg
1 pat butter .55 mg
1/4 cup black beans, canned 101.9 mg
1 small apple 1.1 mg

* This menu provides 1,875 calories, 101g carbohydrate, 30g fiber, and 1,009mg sodium.


1. Bibbins-Domingo K, Chertow GM, Coxson PG, Moran A, Lightwood JM, Pletcher MJ, Goldman L. “Projected effect of dietary salt reductions on future cardiovascular disease.” New England Journal of Medicine. 2010 Feb 18; 362(7):590-9. Epub 2010 Jan 20.

2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.  Retrieved: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

3. Pimenta E, Gaddam KK, Oparil S, Aban I, Husain S, Dell’Italia LJ, Calhoun DA. Effects of dietary sodium reduction on blood pressure in subjects with resistant hypertension: Results from a randomized trial. Hypertension. 2009 Sep; 54(3):475-81. Epub 2009 July 20.

4. Weinberger MH. Salt sensitivity is associated with an increased mortality in both normal and hypertensive humans. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2002 Jul-Aug; 4(4):274-6

This article is written by Sheila Buff