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What is the Shake on Salt?

Contributed by Erin Hartmann, RD, LDN

Nutrition and Food Services

low sodium chicken salad

The shake is that most Americans eat too much salt in their food! The technical name for salt is sodium chloride.

  • On average, Americans eat 3,436 milligrams of salt (sodium) daily

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we use less than 2,300 milligrams of salt (sodium) daily

  • To prevent high blood pressure, experts recommend that we reduce our salt (sodium) to 1,500 milligrams daily

It is known that salt is an acquired taste. We are not born wanting salt on our fries. By eating less salt in our diet, we reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and heart failure. Salt is found and hidden in many foods. Some foods naturally have sodium. However, most sodium found in our diet is added, often in the form of processed foods. To help you identify foods high in sodium, it is important to read the food label. The food label tells you how much sodium is in each serving.

  • Look for milligrams of sodium in one serving

  • Choose food with the lowest Percent Daily Value for sodium

  • Sodium should be 140 milligrams or below if you are on a "low sodium" diet


Be aware of advertising - at times, use of the term "low sodium" can be tricky to understand. Products often advertise their sodium content with a spin. This is especially true if they are advertising their product as "heart-healthy." Here are some commonly used sodium claims.

  • dishes of riceSodium Free: less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving

  • Very Low Sodium: 35 milligrams or less of sodium per serving

  • Reduced Sodium: this food has 25% or less sodium than the original food. For example, reduced sodium saltine crackers contain 25% less sodium than the original saltine crackers.

  • Unsalted: Means no salt added, without salt added, or made without salt that is normally used. This food still contains the sodium that occurs naturally in the food.

Great low sodium ways to season your food

Low sodium cooking does not have to be bland. Learning to use new flavors other than salt can spice up your meals!

  • Use herbs and spices to boost the foods natural flavors

  • Look for seasonings that end in powder, such as garlic powder, onion powder or curry powder

  • A mix of marjoram, thyme, parsely, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano and basil makes for great Italian seasoning

  • Poppy seed on homemade rolls adds a woodsy flavor

  • Rosemary is good on chicken

Reducing sodium in our diet can help prevent stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and heart failure. This season let us put some spring in our step and less salt on the picnic table.

Read More

Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride) (American Heart Association)

Dietary Guidelines for Americans (A Healthier You)

Registered Dietitians: Department of Veterans Affairs - (PDFs) - requires Adobe Reader

Pujol, T.J., Tucker, J.E. (2007). Diseases of the Cardiovascular System. In Nelms, M., Sucher, K., Long, S., Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Brooks/Cole.

Updated April 1, 2010