Low Salt Diet Plan and Lists of Best and Worst Foods for Sodium

Health authorities throughout the world have urged people to lower their salt and sodium intake, to help reduce their blood pressure, and to lower the risk of stroke.

While the 'finger of blame' is pointed at fast foods, and the obvious salty snack foods such as chips, cookies, potato fries and sauces, very few regulations have been introduced to control the amount of salt added to processed foods.

It is left to the consumer to work out which foods they should and should not eat, and how much change in their diet is required to reduce sodium intake.

There is a lot of misinformation about salt, foods and diets which is making things worse.

For example, despite common beliefs, the major sources of salt in diets is not fast foods and obvious salt laden foods such as chips, but bread, processed meats, soups and sauces such as ketchup and pasta sauce.

It is common foods such as breads, ham, soups, tomato sauce, soy sauce and pasta sauce.

This article is designed to provide the answers to the key questions:

  • Does a Low Salt Diet Really Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce the Risk of Stroke?
  • Which foods have the highest and lowest amounts of salt (gm salt per 100g serving)?
  • Can eating too little salt be dangerous?
  • How much salt should people consume in their food to reduce the risks?
  • Is it true that eating foods rich in potassium can counteract the effects of sodium on blood pressure?

Salt Intake Needs to be Reduced to 25% of Current Levels
Salt Intake Needs to be Reduced to 25% of Current Levels | Source
Most Salt in diet is from salt added to Processed and Prepared Foods
Most Salt in diet is from salt added to Processed and Prepared Foods | Source
Most salt is from Bread, Processed Meat and Sauces, including pasta sauce and condiments
Most salt is from Bread, Processed Meat and Sauces, including pasta sauce and condiments | Source

Sources of Salt in the Diet

Surprisingly, bread and rolls are the major source of salt in the American diet! Obviously salty snacks like pretzels and chips come in at No. 10 on the list of salt sources.

Top 10 Sources of Salt in American Diets and Their Contribution to Salt Loads

  1. White Bread and rolls, 7.4%
  2. Processed meats, 5.1%
  3. Pizza, 4.9%
  4. Fresh poultry, processed chicken and turkey meals, 4.5%
  5. Soups, 4.3%
  6. Sandwiches and burgers such cheeseburgers, 4%
  7. Cheese and dairy products, 3.8%
  8. Pasta dishes such as spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce, 3.3%
  9. Meat dishes with sauces and condiments, 3.2%
  10. Snacks, including chips, pretzels, bars, popcorn, 3.1%

The image shows similar results for the Canadian diet.

Most the salt consumed is not added by the consumer when either preparing food or adding salt at the table.

  • 75% of all the salt consumed is added to the processed and prepared foods eaten
  • 12% comes naturally from the natural food and ingredients
  • 5% is added by consumers during cooking
  • 6% is added from the shaker at the table.

These findings show that reducing salt intakes requires fundamental changes in diet, akin to the changes required to lose weight, rather than simply eliminating high salt snacks and fast foods.

Does Reducing Salt in the Diet Really Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce the Risk of Stroke?

A recent British study has confirmed a growing body of evidence that lowering salt intake does lead to lower blood pressure.

A change in diet for 4 weeks or more produced significant lowering of blood pressure in both men and women and for people with normal and elevated blood pressures.

The study also showed that the greater the salt reduction, the greater the fall in blood pressure.

How much less salt should people consume in their food to reduce the risks?

Currently, various health organisations have recommended that people halve their average salt intake from an average of about 9-12 g/day to about 5-6 g/day.

The British study showed that this will be effective in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risks of stroke.

However, lowering salt intake by double this amount to 25% of current levels to just 3 g/day was likely to be much more effective and should be promoted as a health target.

Can Eating more Potassium in the diet counteract the effects of sodium on blood pressure?

Various major studies of the results and 22 previous research trials has shown that increased intake of potassium helped lower blood pressure and stroke.

Doing both simultaneously, that is increasing potassium while decreasing sodium, boosted the reduction in blood pressure, compared with changing just one of them.

This is because potassium and salt and potassium have opposite effects on the body.

Therefore, eating potassium-rich foods such as green leaf vegetables, avocados and bananas can offset the impact of sodium on the body. Most of these foods have very low sodium levels.

Foods Rich in Potassium include:

  • Squash
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Prune juice
  • Beans, Kidney
  • Lentils
  • Beans, baked
  • Beans, Pinto
  • Apricots, dried
  • Fish
  • Avocados
  • Mushrooms
  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Soybeans
  • Squash, Winter
  • Beans, Lima
  • Potatoes
  • Beans, white
  • Beet Greens

How to Lower Salt Intake in the Diet

The general principle for lowering salt intake is:

Avoid processed foods and high salt in prepared meals. This includes fast foods but also white bread, processed meats and sauces.

Foods with High Salt Content that should be eaten in moderation include:

  • Most snack foods, such as potato chips
  • White bread and bread rolls.
  • Packages and dehydrated foods, such as instant noodles, pasta or soups
  • Most ‘fast’ foods, such as pizza
  • Canned vegetables
  • All Pre-packaged condiments and sauces including pasta sauces, soy sauce and most commercial tomato based sauces
  • Processed meats, such as salami, sausages, frankfurters, hot dogs and luncheon meats

Tips to reduce salt intake in the diet are:

  • Avoid adding salt to cooking and remove the salt shaker from the table
  • Avoid all salty foods, including sauces and use soy sauce sparingly
  • Replace processed foods with home cooked food made from natural ingredients
  • Look for ‘salt free’ or ‘low salt’ versions of bought foods and ingredients
  • Choose low-salt salt bread, sauces and breakfast cereals
  • Replace salt in cooking by using spices and fresh herbs. Garlic, ginger, chili, oregano and basil reduce the need for salt
  • Use juices such as lemon, grapefruit and lime juice to add a sour taste to meals
  • Buy fresh vegetables instead of canned foods
  • Make your own Pasta sauce using fresh tomatoes
  • East takeaway and fast foods sparingly

List of Salt in Common Foods

The table below lists the amount of salt (mg) for a standard serving of 100g for 200 common foods.

The standard serving may be misleading in some respects because 100g is a lot sore sauces such as soy, ketchup and tomato paste.

Nevertheless it provides a standard for comparisons and should help to avoid high salt foods.

The foods are listed alphabetically.

The 20 foods with the highest salt density (mg/100g) serving are:

  • Bouillon cubes
  • Baking powder
  • Beef, dried
  • Bacon
  • Olives, green
  • Popcorn, salted with oil
  • Cheese, Parmesan
  • Beef, corned
  • Pretzels
  • Chili powder with salt
  • Pickles, dill
  • Sausage, Bologna
  • Mustard
  • Cheese, processed
  • Most Cereals, commercial
  • Crackers, saltines
  • Pork, canned ham
  • Sausage, Frankfurter
  • Tomato ketchup

Salt Content (mg) of Common Foods for a Standard Serving of 100g

Food (100g)
Salt (mg)
Food (100g)
Salt (mg)
Food (100g)
Salt (mg)
Apple juice, bottled
1
Cocoa, dry
6
Peanut butter
607
Apple, raw unpeeled
1
Cocoa, processed
717
Peanuts, roasted
5
Applesauce, sweetened
2
Coconut, fresh
23
Peanuts, salted
418
Asparagus, canned
236
Coffee, beverage,
1
Pears
2
Asparagus, fresh
1
Coffee, instant, dry
72
Peas, cooked
2
Avocado
4
Collards, cooked
25
Peas, dried
40
Bacon, Canadian
2,500
Cookies , plain
365
Peas, green, canned
236
Bacon, cooked
1,021
Cookies, Fig bars
252
Pecans, shelled
0
Baking powder
11,000
Cookies, oatmeal
170
Peppers, green
13
Banana
1
Corn, sweet canned
236
Perch
79
Barly, pearled
3
Corn, sweet, cooked
8
Pickles, dill
1,428
Bean sprouts, cooked
4
Cowpeas, dry, cooked
8
Pickles, relish, sweet
712
Bean, canned
236
Crabmeat, canned
1,000
Pie
350
Beans, canned with pork and tomato sauce
463
Crackers, Graham
670
Pie crust, baked
617
Beans, Lima
1
Crackers, saltines
1,100
Pike, walleye
51
Beans, Lima canned
236
Cranberry juice or sauce
1
Pineapple, raw or canned
1
Beans, snap green, cooked
4
Cream
40
Pizza, cheese
702
Beans, white common, cooked
7
Cucumber
6
Plums
2
Beef hamburger
47
Dates
1
Popcorn, salted with oil
1,940
Beef hash, canned
540
Doughnuts
500
Pork
65
Beef pie or stew, commercial
400
Duck
74
Pork canned ham
1,100
Beef, corned
1,740
Egg, whole, raw
74
Pork, cured ham
930
Beef, dried
4,300
Eggplant, cooked
1
Potato chips
1,000
Beef, roasted broiled or stewed
60
Endive, curly
14
Potatoes, baked, boiled or french fried
5
Beets canned
236
Figs
2
Potatoes, mashed salted
331
Beets, cooked
43
Flounder
78
Pretzels
1,680
Beverage, fruit drink
0
Flour
2
Prunes
4
Beverages, beer
7
Fruit cocktail
5
Pumpkin, canned
2
Beverages, wine
5
Gelatin, dry
0
Radishes
18
Biscuits
630
Grapefruit, fresh, canned or juice
1
Raisins, dried
27
Blackberries
1
Grapes
3
Raspberries
1
Bluefish, cooked
104
Haddock, battered
177
Rhubarb
2
Bouillon cubes
24,000
Haddock, raw
61
Rice, cooked and salted
374
Bread
500
Heart, beef
86
Rice, dry
5
Broccoli, cooked
10
Herring
74
Rolls, bread or sweet
500
Brussel sprouts, cooked
10
Honey
5
Rutabagas
4
Butter, salted
826
Honeydew melon
12
Rye wafers
882
Butter, unsalted
10
Ice cream, vanilla
87
Salad dressing
1,000
Cabbage
20
Jams and preserves
12
Salmon, canned
387
Cakes
300
Jellies
17
Salmon, fresh
64
Candy, caramels, fudge
200
Kale, cooked
43
Sardines, canned
400
Candy, hard
30
Lamb, lean
70
Sauerkraut
747
Cantaloupe
12
Lard
0
Sausage, Bologna
1,300
Carrots
40
Lasagne
490
Sausage, Frankfurter
1,100
Carrots canned
236
Lemon, juice or fresh
1
Sausage, pork
958
Cashews, unsalted
15
Lettuce
9
Scallops,
265
Cauliflower
10
Lime, fresh or juice
1
Shrimp
150
Celery, raw
126
Liver, beef
184
Soup, canned
400
Cereal, Corn grits
1
Liver, pork
111
Spaghetti with meatballs, canned
488
Cereal, Cornmeal
1
Lobster
210
Spaghetti, dry
2
Cereal, Farina, dry
2
Macar0ni,cheese
543
Spinach, raw
71
Cereal, Oatmeal, cooked and salted
218
Macaroni, dry
2
Squash
1
Cereal, Oatmeal, dry
2
Margarine
987
Strawberries
1
Cereal, Rice flakes
987
Milk
50
Sugar, brown
300
Cereal, wheat flakes
1,000
Milk, buttermilk
130
Sugar, white
1
Cereal, wheat, puffed
4
Milk, dried
549
Sunflower seeds
30
Cereal, wheat, shredded
3
Milk, evaporated
106
Sweet potatoes
12
Cereals bran, wheat, crude
9
Molasses, dark
96
Syrup
68
Cereals, commercial
1,100
Molasses, light
15
Tapioca, dry
3
Cheese, cheddar
620
Muffins, plain
441
Tomato juice, canned
200
Cheese, cottage
406
Mushrooms
14
Tomato ketchup
1,042
Cheese, cream
296
Mushrooms, canned
400
Tomato, canned
130
Cheese, Mozzarella
373
Mustard greens
18
Tomato, fresh
3
Cheese, Parmesan
1,862
Mustard, prepared yellow
1,252
Tongue, beef
61
Cheese, processed
1,189
Nectarine
6
Tuna in oil
800
Cheese, Swiss
260
Noodles, dry
5
Turkey,
82
Cherries, Raw
2
Oil, corn
0
Turnips
34
Chicken pot pie, commercial
411
Okra,
2
Veal
80
Chicken, cooked, without skin
80
Olives, green
2,400
Vinegar
1
Chickpeas, dry
8
Onions, green
7
Waffles
475
Chicory
7
Orange , fresh
1
Walnuts
3
Chili con carne, canned with beans
531
Oysters, raw
73
Watermelon
1
Chili powder with seasonings
1,574
Pancakes
425
Wheat germ
827
Chocolate syrup
52
Papayas, raw
3
Yeast active
52
Chocolate, plain
4
Parsley
45
Yeast, compressed
16
Clams, hard, round
205
Parsnips, cooked
8
Yoghurt
46
Clams, raw soft
36
Peaches
2
 
 

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 1 comment

My Cook Book profile image

My Cook Book 3 years ago from India

Excellent information! this is very well written. Thanks for sharing this very useful info.

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