Caring Web

Salt Sense


Salt is made up of two minerals: sodium and chloride. You need these minerals in the body to help balance fluid levels. Sodium is the main concern with your dietary intake. Normally your body can handle any level of sodium intake, even large excesses. However, some people can not handle such large amounts and are called "salt sensitive". Unfortunately there are no tests to determine who is or is not salt sensitive so it is recommended that everyone learn to limit their intake of sodium.

Large amounts of sodium in your diet may lead to large amounts of sodium in your blood. Sodium attracts water in the blood that can lead to high blood pressure, stress to your heart, and swelling in your hands, ankles, and feet.

It is recommended that a diet low in sodium include no more than 2400 milligrams of sodium a day. Typically Americans consume 4000 to 7000 milligrams a day. Your body only needs about 295 milligrams to meet its daily needs.

Sodium is everywhere. Mother Nature put it in all foods. However 75% of the sodium you consume comes from processed foods. Salt is used as a preservative to keep foods fresh longer. The more processed a food is the higher the sodium content.

For many people salt makes food taste better. Believe it or not you are not born with the desire to eat salty foods. Using salt to season food is something that you learn to like as you grow up. It is hard at first to use less salt but be patient your taste buds will adjust after about 2 weeks of using less salt.

Making Changes

Season your foods with herbs and spices instead of salt to enhance flavor. Use garlic powder or onion powder instead of garlic salt or onion salt.

Find an empty salt shaker and fill it with 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt as your limit of extra salt to season foods for the day. This will give you a good idea of how much extra salt you may have been using.

Be careful: low sodium or reduced sodium salts are still high in sodium.

Try to select more fresh foods and prepare more foods yourself so that you control the amount of sodium used. Prepare extra portions when you cook and freeze individual servings for "fast foods".

Check with your doctor before using a salt substitute. Salt substitutes are made from potassium and chloride. Your doctor may have prescribed medications for you that may not work well with an increased intake of potassium.

Look for these claims on food labels to help your choices
Sodium Free
Low Sodium
Reduced Sodium
Light in Sodium
Very Low Sodium


Labeling Standards

Very Low Sodium Foods

Less than 35 milligrams sodium/serving
Low Sodium Foods Less than 140 milligrams sodium/serving
Moderate Sodium Foods 140 to 400 milligrams sodium/serving
High Sodium Foods Greater than 400 milligrams sodium/serving
Very High Sodium Foods

Foods Greater than 600 milligrams sodium/serving


Additional Information:

The following is a web site to provide you with more information about healthy diets:


DASH Eating Plan. (2006). Retrieved from

Larson Duyff, R. & ADA. (2006). American Dietetic Association complete food and nutrition guide (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc

Reduce salt in your diet. (2011). Retrieved from

Sizer, F., & Whitney, E. (2008). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Tips for reducing salt in your diet. (2011). Retrieved from

Developed in 2001 by Julie L. Smith, MS, RD, LD, CDE at The University of Toledo for Caring~Web©

Revised 2010, 2012.

Last Updated: 6/27/22