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Get answers to your nutrition & healthy eating questions.

Call us toll-free† at
1-877-510-510-2 to speak directly with a Registered Dietitian.

Get the Scoop on Salt

 

We all know that we need to be eating less salt. Does that mean that you will lose out on flavour? No! Read on to find out how to cut out the salt while keeping the flavour. 


Why is salt harmful?

All types of salt are high in sodium. Sodium is a mineral that our body needs to maintain a normal fluid balance. However, eating too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Over 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods such as cheese, deli meats pizza, sauces and soups. Packaged and ready-to-eat foods, fast foods and restaurant foods are often high in sodium.

Eating less sodium can help you and your family stay healthy and feel your best. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, you can still benefit from lowering the amount of sodium you eat. 


How much is too much?

We all need some sodium, but most of us eat about 3400 milligrams (mg) per day. This is more than double the amount of sodium we need. 

  • Healthy adults need only 1500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Healthy children need only 1000 to 1500 mg of sodium per day.

People with health problems may need to aim for lower sodium intakes and should follow the advice of their physician.
  

What the label says:

Buy unsalted and lower sodium foods whenever possible. Look for words such as “sodium-free,” “low sodium” or “no added salt” on the package.

This table can help you understand the different sodium claims found on food packaging.
 

Free of sodium or salt

Salt-free

Without Salt

Contains no sodium

Contains less than 5 mg of sodium or salt per serving

Low in sodium or salt

Low sodium

Low source of sodium or salt

Contains less than 140 mg per serving

Lightly salted

Contains 50% or less sodium than the regular version of the same food product

Reduced in sodium or salt

Lower in sodium or salt

Sodium reduced

Less salt

Reduced in salt

Contains 25% or less sodium than the regular version of the same food product

No added sodium or salt

Without added sodium

No added salt

Unsalted

Contains no added salt or other ingredients that contain sodium (product might still have naturally occurring sodium)


Compare food labels

Buy products with the lowest amounts of sodium. Look for foods that have less than 360 mg of sodium per serving.

You can also use the % Daily Value (%DV) on the Nutrition Facts table to compare products and see if the food has a little or a lot of sodium. Here is a good guide:

  • 5% DV or less is a little
  • 15% DV or more is a lot.

Look for products with a sodium content of less than 15% DV. Remember to check the food labels often because product ingredients may change.
  

Hidden ingredients

If any of the words below are one of the first 5 ingredients on the label, you may want to look for a lower sodium option:

  • Salt
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Brine
  • Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Baking Powder
  • Soy Sauce 


Seasoning without salt

Instead of using salt, flavour foods with herbs and spices. Here are some ideas to get you started. Experiment until you find your favourite combinations.
 

Beef: bay leaf, mustard powder, sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, curry powder, nutmeg

Lamb: curry powder, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint jelly

Veal: bay leaf, curry powder, oregano, ginger, lemon

Chicken: lemon, garlic, ginger, rosemary, paprika, parsley, sage, thyme, basil, tarragon

Potato: onion, garlic, parsley, chives

Fish: bay leaf, curry powder, mustard powder, lemon, paprika, dill, lemongrass, ginger

Pork: onion, sage, thyme, oregano, black pepper, apple, applesauce

Rice: chives, green pepper, onion, cinnamon, bay leaf, paprika, cumin


Salt substitutes

Salt substitutes are made with potassium or magnesium instead of sodium. They can be used to replace table salt but they often taste bitter. If you want to use a potassium-containing salt substitute, check with your doctor first to make sure there is no medical reason why you need to be careful about your potassium intake.

Salt substitutes are different than the salt-free seasoning blends that you might find in the local grocery store. Salt free seasonings are a mixture of dried herbs and spices that don’t contain sodium chloride. Of course, you can also make your own seasoning blend by mixing together your favourite herbs and spices.

Try this recipe by the Heart and Stroke Foundation to get you started.

 

Different kinds of salts

Table Salt: Table salt is what is most often found in our salt shakers. It is made up of sodium chloride, iodine and an anti-caking agent to give it its fine-grain free flowing texture.

Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is similar to table salt but does not contain any additives or iodine. It has a coarse grain and tastes “saltier” than table salt.

Pickling Salt: Pickled salt has the same texture as table salt but does not contain iodine or an anti-caking agent. It is used to make pickled foods.

Sea Salt: Sea salt is made when seawater evaporates. Sea salts will have different flavours depending on where they come from. These unique flavours can add a “special something” to a food’s flavour and finish. Sea salts are usually more expensive than other salts.


There is no difference in the how these salts may affect your health. All these salts have the same amount of sodium per teaspoon. One teaspoon of salt is equal to 2300 mg of sodium.

 

The bottom line

Most Canadians eat too much sodium. By making healthier choices when grocery shopping and cooking at home, you can help lower the amount of sodium you and your family eats. Read food labels, choose foods with the lowest amount of sodium and look for words like “sodium-free,” “salt-free” and “without salt.”

 

 

For more information:

Growing an Indoor Herb Garden, EatRight Ontario

Cut out the Salt, EatRight Ontario

Do you have more questions about how you can lower your blood pressure and reduce the amount of sodium in your diet? Call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 to speak with a Registered Dietitian or send an email.

 

Copyright © Dietitians of Canada 2014. All rights reserved.

Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.