For many individuals, reducing intake of dietary sodium or salt can offer a number of benefits. Excessive salt intake has the potential to negatively impact the liver, kidneys, heart, and blood pressure. Cutting back on salt can limit fluid retention and allows your body to function more normally. While this dietary modification can be a challenge, a few simple tricks can be used to limit the salt that you are eating and improve your overall health.
What is Sodium?
Sodium chloride, more commonly known as table salt, is a mineral added to food as a preservative or for flavor. There are different types of salt including sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and kosher salt.
In general, over half of the salt Americans consume comes from processed or packaged items, not the saltshaker. Although the body does need some sodium to support nerve and muscle function over consuming sodium can make other parts of the body work harder.
What the Experts Say
Consuming too much salt is pretty easy to do, unless you are carefully monitoring the food that you eat. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily goal for sodium is set at 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day for most adult men and women. Thinking in terms of measurement, adults need about one teaspoon of salt for the entire day.
How does this goal compare to the average amount of sodium consumed by adults? Most adults unknowingly consume 3,400 milligrams or more per day. Because sodium is used as a preservative or in a variety of different seasonings, some of the richest sources of salt in the American diet include deli meat, bacon, pizza, burritos, tacos, soups, salty snacks, burgers, and pasta or egg dishes.
Tips for Reducing Dietary Sodium
Cutting back on salt isn’t something that will happen overnight. Instead, allow time for your body to adjust to this new style of eating, and find other salt-free seasonings that taste good and make eating enjoyable! When getting started, consider the following tips:
Swap out the salt. Cutting back on sodium doesn’t mean food has to be tasteless. Experiment with different peppers, green herbs, or a mix of garlic and onions. Try a variety of ready-to-use, salt-free seasonings available at the grocery store. If you like to make recipes from scratch, a quick Google search for homemade salt-free seasonings offers a lot of great recipes and ideas.
Clear the salt shaker from the table. Removing the saltshaker from your kitchen table is an easy method to prevent adding salt to your meal. In addition, this will help you taste the food before reaching to add more flavor.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Most of the time, canned or processed, shelf-stable foods are found within the aisles or middle of the grocery store. Shopping along the perimeter of the store allows for the selection of lower sodium fruits, vegetables, and certain meats. If the meat item has a label, limit foods that are preserved in a saline solution or be sure to rinse these foods under running water before preparing.
Read labels. Reading the Nutrition Facts Label is an important part of following a low-sodium diet. Identify the serving size and try to include foods with 140 milligrams of sodium per serving or less. If you plan to eat more than one portion, be sure to include this amount as part of your total daily sodium intake. Look for lower sodium labeling or terminology including “salt or sodium free,” “low or very low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “lightly salted.”
Be savvy when eating out. With unknown ingredients and larger portions, the sodium in your meal can add up quickly when eating at a restaurant. Try to plan ahead with any available nutrition information online. You can also request dressing and sauces to be on the side. Saving half of the meal for leftovers can also allow for the right portion and limit the salt you may be eating.
Stacey Phillips, MS, RD is a clinical dietitian working with general medicine, oncology, CKD, renal transplant recipients and living kidney donor patients. Outside of her work, Stacey is passionate about improving the resources available to individuals with chronic kidney disease and actively participates on several renal dietitian committees.
If you have more questions about reducing your sodium intake, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual. Low-Sodium Nutrition Therapy. Available at: https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed April 20, 2022.