Low Salt Diet

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-13 (EDT)

See Also Naturopathic Therapies
See Also Clinical Nutrition

The average American eats five or more teaspoons of salt each day. This is about 20 times as much as the body needs. In fact, your body needs only 1/4 teaspoon of salt every day. Sodium is found naturally in foods, but a lot of it is added during processing and preparation. A main source of sodium is table salt. Many foods that do not taste salty may still be high in sodium. Large amounts of sodium can be hidden in canned, processed and convenience foods. And sodium can be found in many foods that are served at fast food restaurants.


A low-salt diet is commonly recommended when treating the following conditions:

  • Sodium and potassium need to be consumed in proper proportion to each other in order to maintain optimal health. When salt is consumed in too great a proportion in the diet relative to potassium hypertension can result.[1] In general, the more salt one consumes, the greater their blood pressure will be, and the more it will rise with age.[2]
  • In many individuals, hypertension can be successfully treated simply by reducing salt intake, and increasing potassium intake.[1] Doing so has been shown to decrease blood pressure in people of all ages.[2]
  • Potassium may lower blood pressure, and help protect against cardiovascular disease.[3]
  • Human societies with a very low salt intake have generally low blood pressure levels throughout their populations. In such societies, blood pressure levels typically do not increase with age.[2] This is in stark contrast to most western societies.
  • Weight Gain
  • Increased salt levels in the body can lead to water retention and increased weight.[4]
  • Elevated salt intake is associated with an increased risk of forming calcium based kidney stones.[2]
  • High salt intake is associated with an increase in bronchial reactivity, and thus, asthma.[1]
  • High salt intake leads to the removal of calcium from bone, and the loss of calcium in the urine.[4]
  • People with a low calcium intake are more prone to crave salt. Inversely, adequate dietary calcium intake often leads to a decrease in salt cravings.[5]


Sodium controls fluid balance in our bodies and maintains blood volume and blood pressure. Eating too much sodium may raise blood pressure and cause fluid retention, which could lead to swelling of the legs and feet or other health issues.[6]

  • The general recommendation for a low-salt diet is to consume less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day. Mind you, the target given your naturopathic doctor may be even lower than this depending on your specific health risks.
  • General Guidelines for Cutting Down on Salt
  • Eliminate salty foods from your diet, reduce the amount of salt used in cooking and remove the salt shaker from the table.
  • Low sodium is defined as 140 mg of sodium or less per serving.
  • High sodium is defined as 400 mg or more of sodium per serving.
  • Read food labels.
  • Salt substitutes are sometimes made from potassium, so read the label. If you are on a low potassium diet, then check with your doctor before using those salt substitutes.
  • Look into other salt options.
  • Sea salt is no better than regular salt.
  • High-sodium food additives include brine, and monosodium glutamate.
  • Season your foods with spices, herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper.
  • Eat more home-cooked meals. Foods cooked from scratch are naturally lower in sodium than most instant and boxed mixes.
  • Don’t use softened water for cooking and drinking since it contains added salt.
  • Avoid medications which contain sodium such as Alka Seltzer and Bromo Seltzer.
High Sodium Foods Low Sodium Foods
Meats and Poultry, Fish, Legumes, Eggs and Nuts
  • Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar and anchovies.
  • Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza, canned entrees, such as ravioli, spam and chili
  • Salted nuts
  • Beans canned with salt added
  • Any fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Low-sodium peanut butter
  • Dry peas and beans (not canned)
  • Low-sodium canned fish, drained, water or oil packed canned fish or poultry
Dairy Products
  • Buttermilk
  • Regular and processed cheese, cheese spreads and sauces, cottage cheese
  • Milk, yogurt, ice cream and ice milk
  • Low-sodium cheeses, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella
Breads, Grains and Cereals
  • Bread and rolls with salted tops, quick breads, self-rising flour, biscuit, pancake and waffle mixes
  • Pizza, croutons and salted crackers
  • Prepackaged, processed mixes for potatoes, rice, pasta and stuffing
  • Breads, bagels and rolls without salted tops
  • Muffins and most ready-to-eat cereals
  • All rice and pasta, but do not to add salt when cooking
  • Corn and flour tortillas and noodles
  • Low-sodium crackers and breadsticks, unsalted popcorn, chips and pretzels
Vegetables and Fruit
  • Regular canned vegetables and vegetable juices
  • Olives, pickles, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables
  • Vegetables made with ham, bacon or salted pork
  • Packaged mixes, such as scalloped or au gratin potatoes, frozen hash browns and Tater Tots
  • Commercially prepared pasta and tomato sauces and salsa
  • Fresh and frozen vegetables without sauces
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables, sauces and juices
  • Fresh potatoes, frozen French fries and instant mashed potatoes
  • Low-salt tomato or V-8 juice
  • Most fresh, frozen and canned fruit, dried fruits
  • Regular canned and dehydrated soup, broth and bouillon, cup of noodles and seasoned ramen mixes
  • Low-sodium canned and dehydrated soups, broth and bouillon
  • Homemade soups without added salt
Fats, Desserts and Sweets
  • Soy sauce, seasoning salt, other sauces and marinades
  • Bottled salad dressings, regular salad dressing with bacon bits
  • Salted butter or margarine
  • Instant pudding and cake
  • Large portions of ketchup, mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Unsalted butter or margarine
  • Vegetable oils and low sodium sauces and salad dressings, mayonaise
  • All desserts made without salt


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pizzorno JE, Murray MT (1997) A Textbook of Natural Medicine Churchill Livingstone. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Pizzorno" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 MacGregor GA, de Wardener HE (1998) Salt, Diet and Health: The Uses and Abuses of Salt Throughout History and it’s contribution to Disease in Today’s Consumer Societies, Cambridge University Press.
  3. 3.0 3.1 McCarty Mark F, Moore Richard D (2001) The Salt Solution. Avery.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gittleman Ann Louise (1996) Get the Salt Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Salt Out of Any Diet, Three Rivers Press.
  5. Somer Elizabeth (1999) Food and Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best, Second Edition. Henry Holt.
  6. http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/guidelines_for_a_low_sodium_diet/index.html