Information graphic on salt use

How to Cut Salt and Reduce Your Health Risks

Think you’ll sprinkle just a little salt on your dinner? Better think twice. Did you choose a fat-free treat? Watch that your “healthy” choice won’t push your daily sodium intake over the healthy limit.

While there is at least a little sodium in most foods, and we all need to eat some, consuming too much leads to health problems. The average daily recommended serving of sodium is 2,000 milligrams. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. If you eat like most Americans, it is easy to exceed your recommended serving, even without adding salt to your food.

Too much sodium in your diet is linked to several health problems, including some that are life-threatening. It can cause or worsen fluid buildup (water retention,) heart, liver and kidney disease, and high blood pressure – which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Whether you want to reduce the amount of sodium you eat because of a health condition or simply because you want a healthy diet, you can cut out salt and other sodium easily by following these tips:

  1. Put away the salt shaker. Don’t add salt, not even a pinch. That includes sea salt and kosher salt, which are no lower in sodium.
  2. Season your food with herbs and spices that do not contain sodium. Avoid any spice with the word “salt” such as seasoning salt, garlic salt and onion salt. There are hundreds of herbs and spices that add great flavor and do not contain sodium.
  3. Eat food you’ve prepared at home. Limit fast food and restaurant eating because foods they serve most likely will have more sodium (and fat).
  4. Avoid buying canned or packaged goods that are high in sodium. Soups, frozen vegetables, rice and pasta mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal, instant pudding and gravy mixes are usually higher in sodium.
  5. Use more fresh ingredients, and stop using seasoning mixes that contain sodium.
  6. Leave the salt out of recipes whenever possible. Try the recipe without the salt at least once.
  7. Avoid buying fat-free snacks or condiments. The manufacturers most often replace the fat with additional salt or sugar. A reduced-fat or low-fat item is a better choice.
  8. Read the ingredients label of all foods you purchase to find the sodium level.

Finally, you need to know what you're looking for. Sodium has many names and can come in many forms. These include:

  • Sodium alginate
  • Sodium sulfite
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Sodium citrate

– Loyola Medicine's registered dietitians