6 Tips for Lowering Your Salt Intake

While the link between salt (sodium) and high blood pressure is still debated within the medical community, studies have shown that when people lower their salt intake, their blood pressure tends to decrease.

Some people seem to be resistant to the negative effects of salt, while others—most notably Black Americans and older populations—seem to be hypersensitive. Because we cannot predict individual sensitivity, limiting salt intake is a prudent step in preventing high blood pressure.

Read Food Labels

Three types of salt in wooden spoons

 Isabelle Rozenbaum and Frederic Cirou / Getty Images 

Every food product for sale in the United States is required to carry a label that lists all of the food's ingredients as well as nutrition information. Included in the nutrition information is a section that tells you exactly how many milligrams of sodium (a form of salt) the food product contains. If you aren't in the habit of reading these labels, you may be very surprised at the salt content of some common foods.

he recommended daily allowance (RDA) for sodium is around 2,300 milligrams (mg)—the equivalent of 1 teaspoon. Most Americans consume around 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Canned soups, for example, often contain anywhere from 1,400 mg to 1,800 mg sodium per can, which is a significant portion of the RDA for sodium.

Buy Fresh Foods

All processed food contains a lot of salt. While some salt is a necessary part of the preparing process and help to keep foods fresh, the majority is unnecessary. Prepared foods are often salted to enhance flavor.

Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables over their canned equivalents can reduce average daily salt intake. While there is a perception that fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than their pre-packaged counterparts, several nationwide studies have shown that this is not always true.

While exotic or non-local items are often expensive, locally available, in-season produce is often very inexpensive.

Put Away the Salt Shaker

While the table salt shaker is not the biggest contributor to the daily salt intake, it is still an important contributor. In many homes, salt is added to a recipe, more salt is added "to taste" during cooking, and still more salt is added when food reaches the table.

While there is usually nothing wrong with adding the specified amount of salt to a recipe, resist the temptation to add salt afterward. Instead, consider replacing your salt shakers with small bottles of salt-free herbs and spices.

Most spice companies now make small bottles of mild herbs and spices designed as salt shaker replacements. Large grocery stores often have their own house brand or generic versions, as well. Garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, dill, and paprika are all flavorful and healthy salt substitutes.

Cut Back on Instant Foods

In our hectic, ​time-pressured culture everything from oatmeal to noodle soups to potatoes is available in an "instant" form. Usually, these instant foods contain much more salt than their non-instant counterparts.

One brand of plain instant oatmeal, for example, contains almost 200 mg salt where the non-instant variety contains 0 mg.

While the time savings might seem attractive, reading the preparation directions will often reveal that the amount of time saved is actually very small. Using our oatmeal example, the directions say to let the instant preparation sit for five minutes before eating, while the non-instant version takes seven to eight minutes to prepare. Flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes are often the worst offenders in this category.​

Choose Lower Salt Convenience Foods

While eliminating prepared or semi-prepared "convenience" completely may be difficult for many families, most manufacturers of these foods usually offer lower salt versions of their products, and the packaging is clearly labeled to reflect this difference.

Crackers, snack bars, cereals, and even potato chips all have low-salt options available, usually for the same price.

To make the biggest dent in your salt intake from this category of foods, buy low-salt versions of canned soups, salad dressings, and pre-made "ingredient foods" like ​breadcrumbs and broths. Frozen dinners, packaged "lunch in a box" products marketed for children, and microwavable snacks are also all very high in salt and are a good candidate for substitutions.

Rinse Canned or Frozen Foods Before Eating

Not all canned or frozen foods have fresh alternatives. Tuna, for example, is a very popular food and is actually a good source of low-fat protein. Similarly, shoppers on a budget may not be able to afford fresh green beans or asparagus in the middle of winter, when prices are at a premium.

In situations like these, you can still lower the salt impact of these foods by rinsing them before eating or cooking. Canned tuna can be rinsed right in the can — just open it, dump out the packed liquid and flush two or three times with cool, clear water. Frozen vegetables with added salt can be rinsed using a colander before steaming or boiling. This simple step can reduce the amount of salt by up to 23%.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. He FJ, Li J, Macgregor GA. Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ. 2013;346:f1325. doi:10.1136/bmj.f1325

  3. Frisoli TM, Schmieder RE, Grodzicki T, Messerli FH. Salt and hypertension: is salt dietary reduction worth the effort?. The American Journal of Medicine. 2012 May 1;125(5):433-9. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.10.023

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sodium in your diet.

  5. Purdue University. Get your daily nutrition with a mix of fresh, frozen and canned fruits, vegetables.

  6. Stewart H, Hyman J, Carlson A, Frazão E. The cost of satisfying fruit and vegetable recommendations in the dietary guidelines.

  7. Olendzki B. Low sodium diet: beyond the basics. UpToDate.

  8. University of California San Francisco: UCSF Health. Guidelines for a low-sodium diet.

  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central.  

By Craig O. Weber, MD
Craig O. Weber, MD, is a board-certified occupational specialist who has practiced for over 36 years.