How Much Salt Is Too Much?

Current guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day for the average adult, both males and females. Sadly, many Americans consume more than 3,400 mg per day. Too much sodium can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.  

Most of the salt in our diets are found in processed and prepared foods, not from the saltshaker added to cooking at home or even from salt added at the table before eating. In addition, Americans eat about one-third of their food outside of their homes.  It is often used as a preservative not necessarily a flavor enhancer. Commercially processed foods, including canned, frozen, and instant, add a significant amount of sodium to the typical American diet.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top 10 sources of sodium in our diets include: breads/rolls; pizza; sandwiches; cold cuts/cured meats; soups; burritos, tacos; savory snacks (chips, popcorn, pretzels, crackers); chicken; cheese; eggs, omelets.

Read food labels to determine how much sodium is included, but some foods, such as deli meats, are not labeled. The FDA also suggests lowering your daily sodium intake include:

  • Substitute flavorful ingredients for salt in cooking, such as garlic, oregano, onion, lemon or lime juice, or other herbs, spices, and seasonings.
  • Gradually cut down on the amount of salt you use. Your taste buds will adjust to less salt.
  • Taste your food before you salt it; it may not need more salt.
  • Choose fresh foods instead of ulta-processed foods like bologna, ham, hot dogs, and sausage.
  • Look for low sodium, reduced sodium, or no salt added versions of foods you eat every day.
  • Cook and eat at home. Adjust your recipes to gradually cut down on the amount of salt you use.
  • Limit your use of condiments like soy sauce, dill pickles, salad dressings, and packaged sauces.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of salty snacks.
  • Consume foods that are rich in potassium. Potassium can help blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include leafy, green vegetables and fruits from vines.

People can make a key dietary change to help lower their risk: Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, which are naturally high in potassium and low in sodium, but eat less bread, cheese, processed meat, and other processed foods that are high in sodium and low in potassium.


This article has been reviewed by a Medical Doctor, Dr. Robert Graham, for additional accuracy. 

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