A little bit of salt (sodium) is important for health, but too much can raise blood pressure levels. This puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say a safe amount for most people is less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, but 9 in 10 Americans get much more than that.
Most of the sodium we eat comes from pre-packaged, processed, and restaurant foods. Sodium is often “hidden” in foods that don’t taste salty, because it is used to preserve foods and give them a longer shelf life.
How Can I Watch Out for Salt?
Learn where sodium is hiding and how to make healthy swaps:
- Keep an eye on processed food. Many common food, including breads, pizza and deli meats, contain hidden sodium. Learn how to swap these foods for low sodium version.
- Get creative with flavors. Instead of using salt, season your food with lemon juice, no salt spice mixes, or fresh herbs.
- Eat potassium. Foods rich in potassium can help cancel out some of the effects of sodium. Bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes are examples of foods that have a lot of potassium.
At the grocery store:
- Buy low sodium or no sodium versions of your typical foods. Different brands of the same foods (like soups or canned vegetables) can have very different amounts of sodium. Take a minute to compare them and choose the lower sodium version.
- Check the nutrition label. About two-thirds of the sodium we eat comes from foods bought at grocery or convenience stores. The nutrition label can tell you exactly how many milligrams of sodium are in each serving.
- Ask servers for low sodium menu options. You can also request that no salt be added to your meal.
- Ask to have your sauces and dressings on the side, and use them sparingly.
- You can also work with your kids’ schools to get more low sodium options in the cafeteria. Most kids also eat too much sodium, and 1 in 9 kids has blood pressure that is too high.