Health Department

Reducing Salt in Your Diet

Reducing Salt in Your Diet

by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

January 23, 2012

Everyone is familiar with the typical health resolutions of eating less and exercising more, but "eating less salt" should top the list. This small step is a big change you can make and stick to. Reducing your salt intake can help in leading a more heart-healthy life.

Most of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt, and the vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. Only a small amount of sodium comes from salt added during cooking and from being added at the table, and most Americans have already exceeded their daily limit of sodium before cooking or adding salt at the table. You can find out how much sodium you are eating by checking the labels on food products and adding up the milligrams of sodium.

Nine out of 10 Americans eat too much salt, and it's raising our blood pressures, which can lead to a heart attack and stroke. In fact, nearly 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to high blood pressure. Decreasing sodium intake could prevent thousands of deaths annually. By reducing the amount of salt we eat, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and comparing food labels to find low-sodium options, we can help reduce our chances of having a heart attack and stroke.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day (about 1 teaspoon of table salt). However, individuals with hypertension, African Americans, and middle-aged and older adults, should limit intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

The majority of Americans regularly eat more than twice the recommended daily limit of sodium every day. One in three Americans has high blood pressure, and most don't realize it. More than half of adults with high blood pressure do not have the condition under control.

You may also want to try a heart healthy diet such as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.) The DASH eating plan is a simple heart healthy diet that can help prevent or lower high blood pressure. This diet is LOW in sodium, cholesterol, saturated and total fat, and HIGH in fruits and vegetables, fiber, potassium, and low-fat dairy products.

Did you know that when salt intake is reduced, blood pressure begins decreasing within weeks on average!

*information provided by