Understanding Ways to Cut Sodium From Your Diet

Reducing Salt and Hidden Sources of Sodium

Woman shopping in grocery store
Dan Dalton / Getty Images

For many people, consuming too much sodium may contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart and stroke, and it may lead to fluid retention and bloating. If you're sensitive to sodium, decreasing the amount of salt and ingredients that contain sodium may help to keep your blood pressure at a healthier level.

Sources of Sodium in Your Diet

One teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 milligrams sodium. Just one-quarter teaspoon has 580 milligrams, and a dash of salt has around 150 milligrams.

Simply banishing the salt shaker from your table is one tactic. While salt is a primary source, many processed foods are high in sodium, too. Canned foods, frozen meals, cured meats, and many other processed foods contain outrageous amounts of sodium, both from salt used to flavor the foods and any food additives and preservatives that contain sodium in various forms. You'll find sodium in most butter or margarine, milk, bread and other staple foods.

Look for these ingredients on the labels of all the processed and packaged foods that you buy:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Sodium alginate
  • Sodium nitrate or nitrite

So to keep your intake down, you need to do more than simply put away your salt shaker. Locate the Nutrition Facts labels to determine how much sodium is in the food you buy. Avoid products that have more than 140 milligrams sodium per serving. You can also rinse your canned vegetables to remove some of the sodium.

How Much Sodium Is Too Much?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, these groups of people should currently be limiting their sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day:

  • African Americans
  • People with diabetes
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People with kidney disease
  • Everyone over the age of 50

That's a large group of people.

Anyone not included in that group should stay under 2,300 milligrams per day, which is not easy if you eat any processed foods at all, even some that are otherwise good for you. Look at the Nutrition Facts label for the amount of sodium per serving.

Ways to Cut Back on Sodium

Your body needs some sodium so you don't want to eliminate all sodium from your diet (that would be almost impossible, anyway), but here are some ways to cut back:

  • Read food labels and choose foods that are low in sodium.
  • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned.
  • Avoid lunch meats and cured meats.
  • Stay away from frozen convenience foods like frozen dinners, pizzas, and snack foods.
  • Buy unsalted nuts and snacks.
  • Eliminate salt from your recipes.
  • Try salt substitutes made with potassium.
  • Seasoning blends can work well, but read the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts labels because they often contain salt or sodium.

Can You Rinse the Sodium Away?

Rinsing canned vegetables and legumes with water can remove some of the sodium. It's difficult to know exactly how much, but if you rinse your canned goods for a minute or so, you may be able to reduce the sodium content by 10 to 30 percent.

It's important to know that studies and sources seem to differ a bit in how much sodium can be washed away, so if you need to track your sodium grams every day, you're probably better off buying low-sodium canned goods and buying fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned. Read the Nutrition Facts labels on the backs of the cans because they will tell you how much sodium is in each serving (also look for the number of servings per package).

Was this page helpful?
View Article Sources