Ask HE: How Much Salt is Too Much?

by in Healthy Tips, June 9, 2010

salt

Heavily-salted foods are on the chopping block all over the country. Some of the world’s largest food companies are slashing the salt content of their foods, and a new study says salt reduction can help your health.   But is all salt bad?

Q: Should I be cutting all the salt out of my diet? How much is too much?

A: You want salt…. you need salt….. but check your diet to make sure you’re not going overboard, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Salt is a valuable flavor enhancer and electrolyte that your body needs for muscle function, fluid balance, and nervous system health. Despite the need for some salt in the diet, many Americans go (way) overboard with diets that are too high in processed and prepared foods.

The daily recommendation for sodium is 2300 milligrams a day for a healthy adult –- that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon. Since too much sodium can aggravate high blood pressure and kidney disease, people that suffer from these conditions should cap their salt intake to 1500 milligrams or less per day. Despite these recommendations, many Americans take in closer to 4700 milligrams per day!

So where does the majority of the salt in American’s diets come from? Processed and prepared foods make up close to 80 percent. So, it’s not the extra sprinkle from the salt shaker or the pinches of salt used in home cooking – those only contribute to 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of worst offenders – steer clear of those foods and use our tips below to keep your salt intake in check.

Tips for Shaking the Salt Habit:

  • Read labels carefully
  • Cut back on processed foods, especially canned soups and prepared frozen entrees
  • Cut back on take-out and restaurant foods – 1 to 2 times a week at the most
  • If you use canned foods, choose low sodium and no salt added versions
  • Measure out those “pinches” and “dashes” of salt while you’re cooking — you’ll know just how much you’re adding.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

TELL US: How do you cut back on the salt in your diet?

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Comments (1,278)

  1. Gail says:

    I have a kind of off the wall question. My 19 year old daughter tried to donate blood last week. Her blood pressure was almost too low. It was too low in one arm, so the tech took it in the other arm & it was right at the minimum for donating. Would a salty snack help her out right before donating or is salt something that raises bp over time?

  2. kjb434 says:

    The reality is that the link between salt and high blood pressure is not proven and it has been found that only a few people have been able to lower their blood pressure by reducing salt intake.

    Most people with that have high blood pressure is due to being overweight and not active. Being overweight makes your heart work harder putting more pressure on your cardiovascular system. Losing the weight will dramatically help this. Not being active also leads to a weak heart and high blood pressure. A strong heart doesn't have to beat as fast and push the blood as forcefully.

    I haven't cut any of my salt intake and took care of my high blood pressure by reducing body fat from 30% to 15%. I didn't eat much processed food to begin with and only ate-out occasionally. Dramatically cutting back calorie intake to loose the weight with working out is the best way. Once you lose the weight you won't need prescriptions for high blood pressure also!

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig Jersey Fenner, Suzanne, browns bar b q, Angela Nguyen, FoodNetwork and others. FoodNetwork said: You asked us, “How much salt is too much?” Here’s our answer: http://ow.ly/20gEn [...]

  4. Katherine says:

    I've been told by my doctor when I was a teenager when I was working out regularly that I had a sodium deficiency…. I am not sure if this new has changed as I've gotten older— but would I have slightly higher sodium needs than the average person is recommended to consume?

    Currently I'm about 15lbs overweight and just getting back into the groove of eating smaller portions and exercising…

    • danawhite says:

      Hi Katherine –
      Some people lose more sodium in their sweat than others — and those that do can benefit from a little extra salt in their diet. It would be best to check with your doctor now that you're exercising more. Thanks for your comment.

  5. [...] This post was Twitted by patiencebug [...]

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  7. meded says:

    Was that Alton Brown I saw on the national news putting salt on his fruit? He is a spokesman for salt? I guess the idea is that everything is ok if done in moderation. So, since this country is obese, hypertensive and diabetic and the annual cost of healthcare is twice that in the rest of the western world ($7500 vs $4000/person/year (with worse outcomes), when I go out for my bacon cheese burger tonight I'll remember moderation and tell the counter guy to hold the salt before he put the cheese on the fries. I don't want my heart muscle cells to stretch out and get weak too early in my life.
    Sei Gesund

  8. [...] about the proposed salt ban, and a new government report shows that many of us are ODing on salt. Most adults should be taking in less than a teaspoon of salt every day, but only 1 in 18 actually do (that’s less than 6 [...]

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