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Cutting Down on Salt and Sodium in Your Diet

It’s clear that Americans have a taste for salt, but salt plays a role in high blood pressure. Salt is made of mostly sodium. Sodium is a mineral present in most foods. If your body has too much sodium, fluid can build up and increase your blood pressure.

Everyone, including kids, should reduce the amount of sodium they eat or drink to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. That is about one teaspoon of salt. 

You should further reduce how much sodium you eat to 1,500 mg a day if you:

  • salt shaker with a hash mark through itare age 51 and older,
  • are African American of any age
  • have high blood pressure
  • have diabetes
  • have chronic kidney disease.

But you might be surprised that most sodium you consume is not from the saltshaker. In fact, many high-sodium foods do not even taste salty. A package of flavored oatmeal can have more sodium than a bag of chips. Fresh chicken is often soaked with a high-sodium solution to make the meat tender.


How to Cut Down on Salt and Sodium

The 10 tips below can help you cut back on salt and sodium.  

Think Fresh.

Eat more fresh foods.  Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium.

Eat highly processed foods less often and in smaller portions—especially:

  • cheesy foods, such as pizza;
  • cured meats, such as:

    • bacon
    • sausage
    • hot dog
    • deli/luncheon meats
  • ready-to-eat foods, like:

    • canned chili
    • ravioli
    • soups.


Enjoy Home-Cooked Foods.

Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what is in your food. Cooking your own foods allows you to limit the amount of salt in them.


Fill Up on Veggies and FruitsThey Are Naturally Low in Sodium.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits that are fresh or frozen.  Eat a vegetable or fruit at every meal.


Choose Dairy and Protein Foods That are Lower in Sodium.

  • Choose more fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt in place of cheese, which is higher in sodium.
  • Choose fresh beef, pork, chicken or turkey, and fish, rather than those with salt added. Deli or lunch meats, sausages, and canned products like corned beef are higher in sodium.
  • Choose unsalted nuts and seeds.


Adjust Your Taste Buds.

 Cut back on salt little by little and pay attention to the natural tastes of various foods.  Your taste for salt will lessen over time.


Skip the Salt.

  • Skip adding salt when cooking.
  • Keep salt off the kitchen counter and the dinner table.
  • Season foods with:

    • spices
    • herbs
    • garlic
    • vinegar
    • lemon juice.

 or use no-salt seasoning mixes.

  • Try black or red pepper, basil, curry, ginger, or rosemary.


Read the Label.

Get into the habit of reading the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients statement to find foods in cans and boxes that are lower in sodium.  Look for foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”


Ask for Low-Sodium Foods When You Eat Out.

 When at a restaurant, ask if they will prepare lower sodium foods.  Request that they serve sauces and salad dressings on the side so you can use less.


Pay Attention to Condiments.

 Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressings, and seasoning packets are high in sodium. Choose low-sodium soy sauce and ketchup.  Have a carrot or celery stick instead of olives or pickles.  If you use packets of flavoring, sprinkle only a small amount .  Do not use the entire packet.


Boost Your Potassium Intake.

Choose foods with potassium, which may help to lower your blood pressure. Potassium is found in:

  • vegetables and fruits, such as:

    •  potatoes
    • beet greens
    • tomato juice and sauce
    • sweet potatoes
    • beans such as white, lima, kidney
    • bananas.

Other sources of potassium include:

  • yogurt
  • clams
  • halibut
  • orange juice
  • milk.


This article was adapted from the Sodium and Salt Fact Sheet provided by and from “From Land or Sea, Salt Is Salt”, published 9/28/12 in Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.


For more information:

Go to the High Blood Pressure health topic.