Thumbnail image of: Sodium Content in Foods: Illustration

Eating Foods Low in Salt: Brief Version

Salt is also called sodium.

The right amount of salt helps your body:

  • Keep the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Send messages through your nerves
  • Relax or tighten muscles

When you have too much salt in your diet, it makes your body hold on to water. This can cause swelling, and can make it harder for your heart to work. Eating too much salt also raises blood pressure. Eating a lot of salt also makes your body lose calcium in your urine. This can lead to brittle bones and kidney stones.

You should have no more than 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. That is about 1 teaspoon of salt. Some people should have less salt than that. Talk with your healthcare provider about the right amount of sodium for you.

The taste for salt is a habit. When you use less salt, your taste starts to change. After a while, food may taste better without salt.

Use less salt

There are 2 main ways to use less salt:

  • Do not add salt to your foods.
  • Choose foods that have less salt or sodium.

Read the labels on canned and prepared foods. Look for any form of salt or sodium. Baking soda, MSG, and baking powder have sodium, too. Don’t eat foods high in salt, such as:

  • Fast foods and restaurant foods
  • Ketchup, mustard, pickles, and olives
  • Soy sauce, steak or barbecue sauce, chili sauce, and Worcestershire sauce
  • Bottled salad dressings
  • Bouillon or broth
  • Self-rising flour and biscuit mixes
  • Cured meats or fish such as bacon, luncheon meats, and canned sardines
  • Canned foods such as vegetables and soups
  • Salty cheeses and buttermilk
  • Salted nuts and peanut butter
  • Salted crackers, chips, popcorn, and pretzels
  • Salted margarine or butter
  • Instant cooked cereals
  • Boxed meals and frozen meals

You can get many of these foods with no or low salt. Read the labels.

Take care of yourself

Ask your healthcare provider before you try salt substitutes. Many salt substitutes have potassium. You may need to watch how much potassium you use.

Eat fresh foods as much as you can. Also, plain frozen fruits and vegetables usually do not have added salt.

Instead of salt, there are many kinds of things you can use to flavor your foods. Try herbs, spices, onions, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or wine. Avoid spice blends that include salt, such as garlic salt.

Take time to plan and enjoy your meals. Food can taste good and help you stay healthy.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-04-04
Last reviewed: 2014-03-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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