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Nutrition Basics

Sodium (Salt) Reduction

Most Americans are eating too much sodium (salt) and don’t even know it. The average American consumes about 3,400 mg/day which is much higher than the recommended 2,300 mg/day. Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

How Much Sodium Should You Eat?

Adults in general should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. However, if you are in the following population groups, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

  • You are 51 years of age or older.
  • You are African American.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have chronic kidney disease.

The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults.

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Sources of Sodium

Americans’ sodium intake breaks down like this:

  • 77% from packaged and restaurant food
  • 12% is naturally occurring in foods
  • 11% from adding salt to food while cooking or at the table

So even if you never use the salt shaker, you’re probably getting too much sodium. Look for sodium content on all food labels but especially for these common foods:

  • Cold cuts and cured meats (such as deli or packaged ham or bacon)
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Canned soups
  • Cheese processed
  • Frozen dinners
  • Premade sandwiches from the deli or fast food restaurant
  • Condiments and Salad Dressings
  • Salted nuts, chips, pretzels
  • Breads and Rolls

What Can You do to Reduce the Sodium You Eat?

Use herbs and spices to flavor foods.
Try fresh or dried herbs, spices, vinegar, and citrus to season your foods instead of salt. The CDC has some tips to increase flavor without using salt.

Choose fresh or frozen foods over canned foods.
Fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, and meats are naturally lower in sodium than canned foods. Join our Nutrition Challenge program to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Prepare Your Own Foods
When you cook your own food, you control how much salt you add. Try these low sodium recipes from the USDA.

Use Less Salt
Gradually cut back on the amount of salt you add to your food. Your taste buds will adjust and you may even prefer less salt.

Choose low-sodium canned goods.
If you buy canned foods, check the label and pick foods with the lowest level of sodium. Rinse canned goods before using to remove additional sodium.

Read the Label
Food labels provide information about the amount of sodium contained in one serving. The following terms are defined by the Food and Drug Administration:

  • Sodium free or salt free: Less than 5 mg per serving
  • Very low sodium: 35 mg or less of sodium per serving
  • Low sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
  • Reduced or less sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium than the regular version
  • Light in sodium: 50 percent less sodium than the regular version
  • Unsalted or no salt added: No salt added to the product during processing


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