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Reducing your sodium

over-turned salt shaker in front of a blood pressure gauge

Sodium is a mineral that your body needs to function properly. But eating too much sodium may, in time, raise your blood pressure. And high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney disease.

Most people should aim to eat less than 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. That's about 1 teaspoon of table salt. Yet most people in the United States get more sodium than they need each day. Most of this excess sodium comes from eating processed foods, such as frozen pizza and potato chips.

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Limiting your sodium

One way to limit the amount of sodium you eat is to check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label when buying food. The sodium content in similar foods can vary a lot. For instance, the sodium content in regular tomato soup may be 700 mg per cup in one brand and 1100 mg per cup in another brand. Choosing the brands with lower sodium content can be one way to lower the amount of sodium you eat.

Also, keep in mind that not all sodium in food is in the form of salt. Other food ingredients also contain sodium, such as:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite (used as preservatives in foods such as luncheon meats)

Another way to limit sodium is to use spices other than salt. There are plenty of salt-free spice combinations that you can find in your grocery store. It may take a while for you to get used to the taste. But give it time. After a while, you may like them better than salt.

Besides limiting the amount of sodium you eat, it is also a good idea to eat foods rich in potassium. A potassium-rich diet blunts the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure. Aim to eat 4700 mg of potassium a day. See the Minerals section for a list of foods high in potassium. Also, check out the Potassium page in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Lists.

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More information on Reducing your sodium

Explore other publications and websites

  • Flavor That Food - Make foods tasty without using salt. This Web page has ingrediants to use instead of salt.
  • Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now (Copyright © Mayo Clinic) - This article talks about how much sodium you really need, which high-sodium foods to avoid, and ways to prepare and serve foods without adding salt or sodium.
  • Test Your Sodium Smarts (Copyright © American Heart Association) - Test your sodium smarts by answering these 10 questions about the sodium content of various food products. You may be surprised to learn how much sodium is in many foods.
  • Tips for Reducing Sodium in Your Diet - This fact sheet provides tips on eating less sodium.
  • Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH - Get with the plan that is clinically proven to significantly reduce blood pressure! This booklet offers a week's worth of sample menus and recipes created to follow the most recent nutritional guidelines. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan features plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that are heart healthy and lower in salt and sodium. It also provides additional information on weight loss and physical activity.

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Content last updated: June 17, 2008.

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