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Should I Cut Back on Salt?

Salt (sodium chloride) is the most common way people get sodium. Sodium is naturally present in most foods, and salt is added to many canned and prepared foods. The body uses sodium to keep the blood, muscles, and nerves healthy. Too much is not good, however, and can make your blood pressure go up.

Most people eat a lot more sodium than they need. If you are over age 50, aim for 1500 mg of sodium—about 2/3 of a teaspoon of table salt. That includes all the sodium you get in your food and drink, not just what you add when cooking or eating. If your doctor tells you to use less salt, cut back on salty snacks and processed foods.

Try adding spices, herbs, and lemon juice to add flavor to your food. Also make sure your diet is rich in foods containing potassium. That will help counter the effects of salt on your blood pressure. Some foods that have a lot of potassium are leafy green vegetables, fruit from vines like tomatoes, bananas, and root vegetables like potatoes.

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