All About Salt

Kevin Grimes / April 26, 2018

Salt is required in a small amount, for the body to function properly. However, Americans typically consume more than the recommended amount of salt, which can then lead to high blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease.1 High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because the symptoms are not always apparent. According to the American Heart Association, one third of American adults have high blood pressure, 90% of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor of death for men. Even for individuals who don’t have high blood pressure, eating less salt can help lessen the likelihood of developing high blood pressure that occurs with age and can put you on a path to a healthier life. Doing this also puts you on path for having an overall heart healthy eating pattern.2

The majority of Americans eat more than 3,400mg of salt each day. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day. Ideally, the limit of salt would be 1,500 mg per day for the majority of adults.3 77% of the salt that Americans consume comes from packaged, prepared and restaurant foods. The rest of the salt in our diet comes from us adding it when we are cooking or sitting down or occurs naturally in food.2

To keep an eye on how much salt you are consuming you want to read the Nutrition Facts label. Take note of the serving size within the product.  Look for sodium and the amount is in milligrams (mg). It is also important to look at the ingredients list and look for words like sodium, salt, and soda.

Terms that are related to salt that you may see on the food label:

  • Sodium free- less than 5 mg of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride
  • Very low sodium- 35 mg or less per serving
  • Low sodium- 140 mg or less per serving
  • Reduced (or less) sodium- at least 25% less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level
  • Light (for sodium reduced products)- if the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50% per serving
  • Light in sodium- if sodium is reduced by at least 50% per serving3

How to reduce salt intake? Choose packaged and prepared foods carefully, choose condiments wisely, if buying canned vegetables buy “no salt added” and frozen vegetables without salty sauces/creams, use herbs and spices, drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables, avoid/limit the use of salt in the cooking process, taste your food before adding salt, watch portion sizes, and while at restaurants check the salt content of the menu items.4

-Sarah, Missouri State University Dietetic Intern

  1. Schaeffer J. The Great Salt Debate – Experts Stand Behind Salt Restriction’s Cardioprotective Effects. Today’s Dietitian. Published October 2011. Accessed April 17, 2018.
  2. American Heart Association. Sodium and Your Health. American Heart Association. Accessed April 17, 2018.
  3. American Heart Association. How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day? American Heart Association. Accessed April 17, 2018.
  4. American Heart Association. How to Reduce Sodium. American Heart Association. Accessed April 17, 2018.