Ask HE: How Much Salt is Too Much?
A: You want salt…. you need salt….. but check your diet to make sure you’re not going overboard, especially if you have high blood pressure.
Salt is a valuable flavor enhancer and electrolyte that your body needs for muscle function, fluid balance, and nervous system health. Despite the need for some salt in the diet, many Americans go (way) overboard with diets that are too high in processed and prepared foods.
The daily recommendation for sodium is 2300 milligrams a day for a healthy adult –- that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon. Since too much sodium can aggravate high blood pressure and kidney disease, people that suffer from these conditions should cap their salt intake to 1500 milligrams or less per day. Despite these recommendations, many Americans take in closer to 4700 milligrams per day!
So where does the majority of the salt in American’s diets come from? Processed and prepared foods make up close to 80 percent. So, it’s not the extra sprinkle from the salt shaker or the pinches of salt used in home cooking – those only contribute to 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest's list of worst offenders – steer clear of those foods and use our tips below to keep your salt intake in check.
- Read labels carefully
- Cut back on processed foods, especially canned soups and prepared frozen entrees
- Cut back on take-out and restaurant foods – 1 to 2 times a week at the most
- If you use canned foods, choose low sodium and no salt added versions
- Measure out those “pinches” and “dashes” of salt while you're cooking -- you'll know just how much you’re adding.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »