We all need salt in our diet. Our body can't survive without it, but too much salt can lead to high blood pressure in some people. Unfortunately our modern American diet is overloaded with salt where it's used as both a flavor enhancer and a preservative. The average American these days eats about 2-4 teaspoons of salt also known as sodium chloride. The recommended daily allowance of salt is ONE teaspoon which is the same as 6 grams of salt/ sodium chloride or 2.4 grams of sodium. It is important to understand the difference between these terms because they are not the same. Food labels often talk about sodium rather than salt. You can eat 6 grams of salt but that means no more than 2.4 grams of sodium. This total includes ALL salt intake not just the salt you add to your food. That means you have to know how much salt is already in the foods you are eating.

How much salt can you eat in a day?

The recommended daily intake of salt for the average adult is less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day.

1 teaspoon of Salt = 6,000mg of Sodium Chloride = 2,400mg of Sodium

If you are over the age of 51 or are black or have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease your daily intake should be less than 1,500 mg of sodium

Food labels are filled with confusing terms when it comes to sodium, but there are precise definitions governing the use of these terms.


Common salt terms

What they mean

Sodium-free  less than 5 mg of sodium in a serving.
Very low-sodium 35 mg or less of sodium in a serving.
Low-sodium 140 mg or less of sodium in a serving
Reduced or less sodium sodium at least 25 percent less per serving than the regular version of that food.
Light or light in sodium sodium at least 50 percent less per serving than the regular version of that food.
No salt added  no salt is added during processing in a food that usually has salt added.

How to lower your salt intake

  • Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned "with no salt added" vegetables
  • Use fresh meats rather than canned, smoked or processed meats
  • Use herbs and spices for seasoning instead of salt
  • Cook rice,pasta, and hot cereal without salt. Avoid instant or flavored rices
  • Reduce consumption of convenience foods like frozen dinners, pizza, canned soups, and cold cuts
  • Rinse canned foods such as tuna to remove sodium

Sodium content of Common Foods

  Food                       Sodium Content 
   apple                          1 and 1/2 mg 
   banana                             1 mg 
   broccoli, 2/3 cup                 10 mg 
   catsup, 1 T                      200 mg 
   carrots, 2                        50 mg 
   cheddar cheese, 1/4 lb           700 mg 
   chicken, broiled, 1/4 lb          70 mg 
   chicken, Burger King Broiler     480 mg 
   dill pickle, 1 medium            900 mg 
   eggs, 2                          270 mg 
   hamburger, Burger King           570 mg 
   hamburger, Burger King Whopper   870 mg 
   margarine, 1 T                   120 mg 
   milk, 2%, 8 oz                   120 mg 
   mustard, 1 tsp                    65 mg 
   olives, green, 10                940 mg 
   salt, 1 tsp                     1938 mg 
   Worcestershire sauce, 1 T        206 mg 
For more information on the sodium content of foods download the booklet in the right hand column.

What about Sea Salt

The topic of Sea Salt requires a brief comment here. Sea Salt has been promoted in many health food outlets as a "more natural" and "healthier" salt. This is not true. Sea Salt has nearly the exact same sodium content as common table salt with a small amount of other salts and minerals mixed in (typically things like potassium, calcium, sulfate, and magnesium). The exact content varies according to the region the salt was collected from but the sodium content of sea salt never varies from that of table salt by any appreciable amount. These other salts and minerals do not make the salt any less likely to contribute to hypertension. In addition, despite claims to the contrary, these additional minerals have never been shown to have any beneficial effects and in some patients they can actually be harmful. Bottom line: Sea Salt is not a healthy alternative to table salt. If you have hypertension you should reduce your salt intake and not try to replace table salt with sea salt.

Sodium Content of Common Foods

Download this booklet for information on the salt content of many common foods