Low-sodium diet; Salt restriction
I Would Like to Learn About:
Too much sodium in your diet can be bad for you. If you have high blood pressure or heart failure, you may be asked to limit the amount of salt (which contains sodium) you eat every day. These tips will help you choose foods that are lower in sodium.
Salt and Your Diet
Your body needs salt to work properly. Salt contains sodium. Sodium helps your body control many functions. Too much sodium in your diet can be bad for you. For most people, dietary sodium comes from salt that is in or added to their food.
If you have high blood pressure or heart failure, you will likely be asked to limit how much salt you eat every day. Even people with normal blood pressure will have lower (and healthier) blood pressure if they lower how much salt they eat.
Dietary sodium is measured in milligrams (mg). Your health care provider may tell you to eat no more than 2,300 mg a day when you have these conditions. A measuring teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. For some people, 1,500 mg a day is an even better goal.
Limiting Salt in Your Diet
Eating a variety of foods every day can help you limit salt. Try to eat a balanced diet.
Buy fresh vegetables and fruits whenever possible. They are naturally low in sodium. Canned foods often contain salt to preserve the color of the food and keep it looking fresh. For this reason, it is better to buy fresh foods. Also buy:
- Fresh meats, chicken or turkey, and fish
- Fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits
Look for these words on labels:
- No salt added
Check all labels for how much salt foods contain per serving.
Ingredients are listed in order of the amount the food contains. Avoid foods that list salt near the top of the list of ingredients. A product with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving is good.
Stay away from foods that are always high in salt. Some common ones are:
- Processed foods, such as cured or smoked meats, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, ham, and salami
- Anchovies, olives, pickles, and sauerkraut
- Soy and Worcestershire sauces, tomato and other vegetable juices, and most cheeses
- Many bottled salad dressings and salad dressing mixes
- Most snack foods, such as chips, crackers, and others
When you cook, replace salt with other seasonings. Pepper, garlic, herbs, and lemon are good choices. Avoid packaged spice blends. They often contain salt.
Use garlic and onion powder, not garlic and onion salt. Don't eat foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG).
When you go out to eat, stick to steamed, grilled, baked, boiled, and broiled foods with no added salt, sauce, or cheese. If you think the restaurant might use MSG, ask them not to add it to your order.
Use oil and vinegar on salads. Add fresh or dried herbs. Eat fresh fruit or sorbet for dessert, when you have dessert. Take the salt shaker off your table. Replace it with a salt-free seasoning mix.
Ask your provider or pharmacist what antacids and laxatives contain little or no sodium, if you need these medicines. Some have a lot of sodium in them.
Home water softeners add salt to water. If you have one, limit how much tap water you drink. Drink bottled water instead.
Ask your provider if a salt substitute is safe for you. Many contain a lot of potassium. This may be harmful if you have certain medical conditions or if you are taking certain medicines. However, if extra potassium in your diet would not be harmful to you, a salt substitute is a good way to lower the amount of sodium in your diet.
Related InformationHeart bypass surgery
Angioplasty and stent placement - carotid artery
Heart bypass surgery - minimally invasive
Cardiac ablation procedures
High blood cholesterol levels
High blood pressure in adults - hypertension
Coronary heart disease
Cholesterol and lifestyle
Controlling your high blood pressure
Dietary fats explained
Fast food tips
Heart disease - risk factors
How to read food labels
Heart failure - discharge
Stroke - discharge
Heart attack – discharge
Heart failure - fluids and diuretics
Heart failure - home monitoring
Heart failure - what to ask your doctor
High blood pressure - what to ask your doctor
Cirrhosis - discharge
Bakris GL, Sorrentino MJ. Systemic hypertension: mechanisms, diagnosis, and treatment. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Bhatt DL, Solomon SD, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 26.
Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(25 Pt B):2960-2984. PMID: 24239922 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24239922/.
Elijovich F, Weinberger MH, Anderson CA, et al. Salt sensitivity of blood pressure: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2016;68(3):e7-e46. PMID: 27443572 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27443572/.
Hensrud DD, Heimburger DC. Nutrition's interface with health and disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 202.
Rayner B, Charlton KE, Derman W. Nonpharmacologic prevention and treatment of hypertension. In: Feehally J, Floege J, Tonelli M, Johnson RJ, eds. Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 35.
Snetselaar LG, de Jesus JM, DeSilva DM, Stoody EE. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025: Understanding the scientific process, guidelines, and key recommendations. Nutr Today. 2021;56(6):287-295. PMID: 34987271. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34987271/.
US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th ed. www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf. Updated December 2020. Accessed July 27, 2022.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/30/2022
Reviewed By: Stefania Manetti, RD/N, CDCES, RYT200, My Vita Sana LLC - Nourish and heal through food, San Jose, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2023 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.