What It Is
Sodium is a mineral found in many foods. We need it for things our bodies do, such as moving muscles and balancing water. When you stick to a 2 gram (2,000 milligrams [mg]) way of eating, you will be lowering the foods you eat that have it.
Why Limit Salt Intake?
Eating this way can put off or lower high blood pressure and holding in excess water. These can happen with things like heart failure and kidney problems. The foods you need to watch are table salt, processed foods, dressings, seasonings, fast foods, and preserved foods. Just one teaspoon of salt has 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
Some processed foods are canned foods, frozen dinners, snack foods, bagged or boxed starchy foods (seasoned rice, instant mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese), baking mixes, deli meats and cheeses, sausages, and cured or smoked meats.
How to Eat This Way
|Food||Eat this...||Not this...|
|Meats and Beans||
|Fats and Oils||
|Snacks and Condiments||
- Make fresh fruits and veggies, and whole grains (such as old-fashioned oats, brown rice, whole grain pasta, barley, bulgur, and whole-wheat couscous) the base of the foods you eat.
- Do not add salt to food when cooking or at the table. If food needs more flavor, get creative and try herbs and spices. Garlic, onion, lemon, lime, and vinegar also add flavor to foods.
- Do not eat fast food—it tends to have a lot of added salt.
- Salt is often used as a preservative. Fresh foods are lowest in salt. Buy fresh poultry, fish, meat, and veggies.
- A good rule of thumb, when in the grocery store, all the aisles in the middle of the store have products with high salt. Often, all foods on the outside aisles are lower in salt.
- Certain drugs may have salt, such as antacids and laxatives. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the ones that you take.
- When eating out, choose meals that are lower in salt and ask that your food be made without any added salt.
Reading Food Labels
- Do not eat foods that have more than 500 mg salt per serving, such as most soups and frozen dinners.
- Don’t just check the list of items for the words sodium and salt—it may be disguised under other names like monosodium glutamate, brine, and broth.
- Here are the meanings of some terms that you may see on foods:
|Sodium-free||Less than 5 mg per serving|
|Very low sodium||35 mg or less in each serving|
|Low sodium||140 mg or less in each serving|
|Reduced sodium||At least 25% less sodium in each serving than the listed food. If the food has 1,000 mg, the same food made with reduced sodium would have 750 mg. Food that isn't “low sodium.”|
|Light in sodium||50% less than in the main product|
|“No Salt Added” and “Unsalted”||No salt was added. But the food may still have sodium.|
American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
American Heart Association
Dietitians of Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Choose foods low in sodium. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/healthdisp/pdf/tipsheets/Choose-Foods-Low-in-Sodium.pdf. Accessed February 4, 2021.
Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-risk-reduction. Accessed February 4, 2021.
Shaking the salt habit. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Shaking-the-Salt-Habit_UCM_303241_Article.jsp. Accessed February 4, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN Last Updated: 2/4/2021