Don't Blame Your Salt Shaker
A little bit of salt (sodium) is important for health, but too much can raise blood pressure levels. This puts you at risk for heart attack and stroke. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say a safe amount for most people is less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, but 9 in 10 Americans get much more than that.1
Where Is the Salt Coming From?
Most of the sodium we eat comes from pre-packaged, processed, and restaurant foods. Sodium is often “hidden” in foods that don’t taste salty, because it is used to preserve foods and give them a longer shelf life.
How Can I Watch Out for Salt?
Learn where sodium is hiding and how to make healthy swaps:
March 20-27, 2017 is World Salt Awareness Week. This year’s theme is Salt: The Hidden Killer. Help spread the word by using #LessSalt.
If you are like most Americans, you consume too much salt each day. But your salt shker may not be to blame. Most of the sodium we consume comes from processed and restaurant foods.
- Keep an eye on processed food. Many common food, including breads, pizza and deli meats, contain hidden sodium. Learn how to swap these foods for low sodium version.
- Get creative with flavors. Instead of using salt, season your food with lemon juice, no salt spice mixes, or fresh herbs.
- Eat potassium. Foods rich in potassium can help cancel out some of the effects of sodium. Bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes are examples of foods that have a lot of potassium.
At the grocery store:
- Buy low sodium or no sodium versions of your typical foods. Different brands of the same foods (like soups or canned vegetables) can have very different amounts of sodium. Take a minute to compare them and choose the lower sodium version.
- Check the nutrition label. About two thirds of the sodium we eat comes from foods bought at grocery or convenience stores.3 The nutrition label can tell you exactly how many milligrams of sodium are in each serving.
- Ask servers for low sodium menu options. You can also request that no salt be added to your meal.
- Ask to have your sauces and dressings on the side, and use them sparingly.
- You can also work with your kids’ schools to get more low sodium options in the cafeteria. Most kids also eat too much sodium, and 1 in 9 kids has blood pressure that is too high.4 Learn more about sodium intake and kids. [231 KB]
What Is CDC Doing ?
CDC is helping communities across the nation to reduce sodium through the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program (SCRP). The SCRP currently funds 10 state and municipality programs working to increase access to low sodium foods, educate consumers, and work with the food industry to reduce sodium in food products. Funded states and organizations also work with schools, hospitals, restaurants, nursing homes, and other facilities that prepare and serve food for the community. Learn more about the program’s early successes. [487 KB]
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. What We Eat in America. [1.2 MB] NHANES 2011–2012. Agricultural Research Service Website.
- CDC. (2016). Top 10 Sources of Sodium.
- CDC. (2016). Sodium and Food Sources.
- CDC. (2016). Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium.
- Salt website
- Get the Facts: Sodium and the Dietary Guidelines [193 KB]
- Get the Facts: Sodium Reduction Tips [202 KB]
- Reducing Sodium in Your Diet to Help Control Your Blood Pressure [664 KB]
- High Sodium Intake in Children and Adolescents: Cause for Concern [232 KB]
From other organizations:
- Page last reviewed: March 17, 2017
- Page last updated: March 17, 2017
- Content source:
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs