Nine out of 10 Americans eat more sodium (salt) than they need. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The good news is that cutting down on sodium can help lower your blood pressure or keep it at a healthy level.
To eat less sodium, you don’t have to make lots of changes at once. Use these tips to help lower the amount of sodium in your diet.
Know your sodium limit.
Ask your doctor how much sodium is okay for you. The general guidance is:
- Healthy adults and teens age 14 and older need to limit their sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day.
- For people with high blood pressure – and people with blood pressure that’s between normal and high – limiting sodium to 1,500 mg a day may be helpful.
- Children under age 14 need no more than 1,500 to 2,200 mg a day of sodium, depending on how old they are.
Shop for low-sodium foods.
Most of the sodium we eat doesn’t come from our salt shakers. Sodium is in almost all the processed and prepared foods we buy – even foods that don’t taste salty, like bread or tortillas.
When you are shopping, limit these items that are high in sodium:
- Processed meats, poultry, and seafood – like deli meats, sausages, and sardines
- Sauces, dressings, and condiments
- Instant foods, like flavored rice or noodles.
Check the label.
Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the amount of sodium in foods and compare different options.
- Try to choose products with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less. A sodium content of 20% DV or more is high.
- Look for foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.” But keep in mind that some low-sodium foods don’t have those labels. Check the Nutrition Facts label to be sure!
Make healthy shifts.
Swap out foods that are higher in sodium for healthier options. You can:
- Snack on unsalted nuts instead of salted pretzels or chips.
- Choose skinless chicken and turkey, lean meats, or seafood instead of deli meats or sausages.
- Go for vegetables that are fresh, frozen, or canned. Pick frozen vegetables without sauce and canned vegetables with the least amount of sodium.
Cook more at home.
Making your own meals is a great way to eat less sodium, because you are in control of what goes into your food.
- If you use canned foods, rinse them before eating or cooking with them. This will wash away some of the salt.
- Use condiments and spreads that are unsalted or lower in sodium. If you use regular spreads, use less.
- Don’t add salt to the water when you cook pasta or rice.
- Try different herbs and spices to flavor your food, like ginger or garlic, instead of salt.
- Take the salt shaker off your table.
Get less salt when you eat out.
- Ask if there are any lower-sodium dishes on the menu.
- When you order, ask that salt not be added to your food.
- Get dressings and sauces on the side so you can add only as much as you need.
Add more potassium to your diet.
Replace high-sodium foods with high-potassium foods. Eating foods with potassium can help lower your blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, beans, milk, and yogurt.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on eating less sodium was adapted from materials from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidance Review Committee