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The Facts About Salt

The Facts About Salt

An essential part of our diet, sodium helps balance fluids in the body and aids nerve and muscle function. However, your body needs just 500 milligrams (mg) or less – less than ¼ teaspoon- per day to function properly. Americans, on average, consume more than 3,400 mg – about 1 ½ teaspoons – daily, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which in turn, increases your risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure. The AHA recommends keeping salt intake to 2,300 mg or less every day, equal to one teaspoon of table salt. But before you hide the saltshaker, take a hard look at your overall diet – 70% of the average American’s sodium intake comes from restaurant, processed and prepared foods, according to the AHA.

Sneaky Salt Sources

Cutting fast food and salty snacks out of your diet is a good start, but take these steps to eliminate other hidden sources of salt.

  • Bread – Salt and two other forms of sodium, baking powder and baking soda, are commonly used in bread baking. Shop for low-sodium breads, or make your own baked goods so you can control the sodium content.
  • Condiments – Ketchup, soy sauce and other common condiments can contain large quantities of salt. Opt for reduced- or low-sodium varieties, and make your own homemade salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Lunch meats – Swap salty cold cuts and cured meats for fresh-roasted chicken and turkey.
  • Soup – Even healthy soups can contain more than half of your recommended daily sodium intake. Homemade, slow-cooker broths and stews allow you to control the salt content and make dinner a breeze.
  • Cheese – Salt preserves cheese and adds flavor and texture. You can find low-sodium versions of some varieties, such as cottage cheese and mozzarella. Otherwise, make cheese an occasional indulgence.

TIP: Sodium can be disguised as multiple words on a nutrition label. To find salt hiding in your food, look for the words “soda” and “sodium.” For example, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate and monosodium glutamate are all sources of added sodium in your food.

For healthy, low-sodium recipes, visit the Live Better recipe page at