Sodium intake and high blood pressure

Certain nutrients in the diet can affect blood pressure. For years, there has been controversy over whether salt (sodium chloride) in the diet can cause high blood pressure. Now, guidelines from the American Heart Association state that there is a link between eating more salt and having high blood pressure.1

Reducing salt in the diet can prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease and can help control high blood pressure in elderly people.

African Americans, older adults, and people with diabetes may benefit most from lowering their dietary sodium intake.

People who are more sensitive to sodium include:

  • People with kidney disease.
  • People of African descent.
  • People with a family history of high blood pressure.
  • People over age 50.

To reduce salt and sodium in your diet:

  • Eat less than 2.3 g (2,300 mg) of sodium a day (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt).
  • Eat a diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, and legumes.
  • Check food labels for sodium. Look for products that say "low sodium," which must contain less than 140 mg of sodium in a serving.
  • Limit fast foods and prepackaged foods because they often contain large amounts of salt and sodium. Also, use the following foods sparingly:
    • Canned or instant soups and sauce mixes
    • Canned or frozen entrees
    • Salty or smoked meats, such as bologna, hot dogs, lunch meats, sausage, bacon, smoked salmon, and tuna packed with salt (includes most water-packed tuna)
    • Snack items like chips, pretzels, salted popcorn, salted nuts, and crackers
    • Pickled foods
    • Canned vegetables
    • Cheeses, especially processed types
  • Reduce your use of the salt shaker on the table, and do not add salt to foods when cooking. Flavor foods with herbs, spices, and lemon juice. Although you might think that getting rid of the salt shaker would be the best way to lower salt intake, table salt accounts for only about 15% of salt intake. Almost 75% of the salt in our diets comes from processed foods. To reduce salt and sodium in your cooking, try these tips:
    • Prepare foods with sodium-free spices and herbs, such as basil, bay leaves, curry, garlic, ginger, lemon, mint, oregano, pepper, rosemary, and thyme.
    • Try one new herb or spice in a recipe each week.
    • Cut in half the salt called for in recipes.
    • Add little or no salt to the food on your plate.
    • Eat high-salt foods in moderation, and use low-salt or salt-free products regularly.
    • Try a low-salt cookbook for other seasoning ideas.
    • Do not drink softened water (it contains added sodium).


  1. American Heart Association (2006). Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006. Circulation, 114(1): 82–96. [Erratum in Circulation, 114(1): e27.]

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