Salt Tips

Salt helps to preserve food and adds flavor which is why more than a dash of sodium is added to most foods in groceries and restaurants. Is salt bad for everybody? Does it raise the blood pressure and therefore contribute to heart disease and stroke in all who consume sodium? The verdict is not yet in on this but we do know that 15-20% of people are genetically overly sensitive to salt. Overly salt-restrictive diets can also cause harm.

It is surely safe to assume that salt should be restricted to 1500 to 2000 mg daily in people with high blood pressure, heart failure, and certain kidney and liver diseases that cause water retention.

Salt restriction should not come at the expense of tasteless food, particularly in frail elderly. That could lead to weight loss from reduced food intake. Spices can be used instead to add flavor to food. If that is not sufficient then less restrictive low salt diet should be tried.

Following are some of the biggest culprits of high sodium foods:

* Processed cheese

* Canned soups

* Processed meats such as hotdogs, cold cuts, ham and fast food

* Pizza

* White bread and bread crumbs

* Salty snacks like pretzels and potato chips

* French fries

Always read labels if your salt restriction is on your mind. A few surprises to beware of:

♦ One Teaspoon of table salt has in it 1200 mg of sodium

♦ Cottage cheese can have 900 mg of sodium per cup

♦ Salted nuts can have 100 to 200 mg sodium per ounce (one ounce = about 15 cashews, for example)

♦ One Dill pickle can pack a sodium punch of 800 mg

♦ One cup of canned chicken noodle soup is soaked with 1100 mg sodium. Minestrone? 900 mg. Tomato? 700 mg.

♦ One cup of canned tomato sauce might pack a 1200 mg sodium punch

♦ One cup potato salad can have 1300 mg sodium


Stolarz-Skrzypek K, Kuznetsova T, Thijs L et al. Fatal and nonfatal outcomes, incidence of hypertension, and blood pressure changes in relation to urinary sodium excretion. JAMA 2011;305:1777–85. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.574