Are you eating too much salt? Do you know what salty foods to avoid or what the effects of eating too much salt could be? In Europe, salt consumption is more than double the recommended daily allowance (RDA), the statistics in the USA don’t depict a better story, with American adults consuming greater than double the RDA! This article identifies some nutritional facts about salt and investigates if low salt diet dangers exist. Also discussed are the benefits of salt in your diet along with the effects of excess salt consumption to your health. Check out the list of high salt foods, which with a single serving could contribute to over half your RDA of salt! Don’t worry, also included is a low salt food list to help reduce your salt intake.

Salt, sodium chloride, processed food

Nutritional facts about salt

Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a composition of approximately 40% sodium and 60% chloride. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 1.6g/70 mmol sodium (4g salt) per day. While our body needs about 4g of salt per day, the acceptable maximum daily intake is 6g or 1 teaspoon of salt.

If you have read how bad are processed foods? Are you risking your health?, then you’ll know the top 10 processed foods to avoid and the negative effects of processed foods; it will be no surprise to you that the majority of salt intake is associated with ultra-processed food consumption.

Many countries consume approximately double the RDA of salt!

Approximately 15% of salt is naturally occurring in food, a whopping 70% of salt intake is ingested from processed foods; the remaining 15% is from salt added at home. Below is a guide to help you identify how much salt is in food and determine if there is hidden salt in foods you love.

  • High = over 1.5 grams
  • Medium = 0.3 grams to 1.5 grams
  • Low = 0.3 grams and under

Salt plays a significant role as electrolytes in the body which have functions including:

  • Contracting and relaxing muscles
  • Conducting nerve impulses
  • Maintaining total body fluid balance

While the effects of eating too much salt have been widely publicised and the next section covers the topic, what’s often neglected is that salt is in fact an essential mineral in the body; while the majority of us are concerned about over-consumption of salt, the benefits of salt in your diet are also worth considering. Low salt diet risks include:

  • Increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Elevated risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of heart failure – up to 160% greater chance of death in individuals who reduced salt intake
  • Development of insulin resistance
  • Increased risk of all-cause mortality

Heart attack, too much salt, coronary heart disease

Effects of excess salt consumption

  • Increased risk of developing stomach cancer: Also known as gastric cancer, it is the 6th most common type of cancer. In a massive meta analysis, a number of observation studies reviewed proposed positive correlations between high salt consumption and stomach cancer. People who consume excess salt are deemed to be 68% more at risk of contracting this disease.
  • Heart disease: Elevated blood pressure readings are associated with increased incidences of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure has been shown to account for 75% of strokes and 50% of heart diseases. Interestingly, no ramdomised controlled trials have been conducted to evaluate the effect of reduced salt consumption in populations with cardiovascular disease; however, the link between them is well-founded and widely accepted in the medical community.
  • Chronic kidney disease: High blood pressure is also an instigator for kidney disease. When the kidneys develop this disease, they encompass an impaired ability to remove sodium or fluids from the body; this can elevate blood pressure levels and lead to excess kidney strain. Chronic kidney disease is often more prevalent in people with a salt sensitivity, as they are less capable of removing salt from their body.
  • Fluid retention: High salt intake is associated with inducing thirst and consequential extra fluid consumption. This fluid is then retained in the intravascular compartment, leading to increased blood volume. Fluid retention is particularly associated with high salt intake and the coupled effect of low water consumption and no exercise.

List of high salt foods

  • Processed meat, e.g. ham, packaged meats, cured meats
  • Soup, e.g. carton, canned or instant soup
  • Pizza, e.g. extra cheesy pizza
  • Stocks and broths, e.g. vegetable stock
  • Condiments, e.g. salad dressings, soy sauce
  • Bread, e.g. white/brown pan often contain approximately 7% of your RDA of salt
  • Biscuits, e.g. chocolate digestives, cookies
  • Frozen meals, e.g. ready-made dinners
  • Crisps, e.g. salt and vinegar, ready-salted
  • Breakfast cereals, e.g. rice krispies, cornflakes

Ham, bacon, high salt food, salty foods, processed meat

If you are interested in ways to reduce salt intake in your diet, then healthy alternatives to junk food – the ultimate cheat sheet has a list of healthy food swaps to help you cut back on salt. In addition, below is a low salt food list to aid you on your path to achieving the recommended salt intake daily.

List of low salt foods

If you are interested in ways to reduce salt intake in your diet, then healthy alternatives to junk food – the ultimate cheat sheet has a list of healthy food swaps to help you cut back on salt. In addition, below is a low salt food list to aid you on your path to achieving the recommended salt intake daily.

  • Fresh and frozen fruit, e.g. berries
  • Fresh and frozen vegetables, e.g. broccoli
  • Fresh or frozen meat, e.g. chicken
  • Fresh or frozen fish, e.g. cod
  • Eggs
  • Unsalted nuts, e.g. peanuts
  • Dairy products, e.g. milk
  • Home-made or low-sodium soup
  • Unsalted popcorn
  • Low-sodium condiments, e.g. low salt ketchup, low salt salad dressing

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Fruit, fruit bowls, low salt snacks, low salt food list

Summary

  • Excess salt consumption is prevalent worldwide with consumption almost double the RDA in many countries
  • The recommended salt intake daily is 4g
  • The benefits of salt in your diet include fluid regulation, nerve transmission and muscle functioning
  • The adverse health effects of salt include elevated risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • The effects of too little salt can almost be as dangerous as the effects of eating too much salt
  • High salt foods to avoid include processed meat, pre-packed soup, pizza and stocks
  • Choosing processed foods that are healthy can vastly reduce salt intake

Good or bad food, healthy, unhealthy foods, processed food, foods high in salt

    Do you think you consume too much or too little salt? Do you think you have a salt addition? Or will you be taking this article with a grain of salt? Comment down below with your thoughts and queries!

    Sources

    Actiononsalt.org.uk. 2020. Salt Surveys – Action On Salt. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2020].

    Cappuccio, F., 2013. Cardiovascular and other effects of salt consumption. Kidney International Supplements, 3(4), pp.312-315.

    EU Science Hub – European Commission. 2020. Dietary Salt/ Sodium – EU Science Hub – European Commission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2020].

    Irishheart.ie. 2020. Irish Heart Salt – Irish Heart. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2020].

    Kompanowska-Jezierska, E. and Olszyński, K., 2018. The Role of High Salt Intake in the Development and Progression of Diverse Diseases. Food Quality: Balancing Health and Disease, pp.395-432.

    Kubala, J., 2018. Low-Sodium Diet: Benefits, Food Lists, Risks And More. [online] Healthline. Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2020].

    McCulloch, M., 2018. 30 Foods High In Sodium And What To Eat Instead. [online] Healthline. Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2020].

    Palsdottir, H., 2017. Salt: Good Or Bad?. [online] Healthline. Available at: [Accessed 12 April 2020].

    Taylor, R., Ashton, K., Moxham, T., Hooper, L. and Ebrahim, S., 2011. Reduced Dietary Salt for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (Cochrane Review). American Journal of Hypertension, 24(8), pp.843-853.

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    20 Comments

  • ibrahim · 12/04/2020 at 4:07 PM

    I really like to sprinkle some salt when ever i taste a food without salt, but am going to moderate my salt intake, with what i have learnt from your post. good job

      Sharon · 12/04/2020 at 5:58 PM

      Hi Ibrahim,

      Good to hear, at least that’s one step towards less salt in your diet!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Partha · 12/04/2020 at 5:40 PM

    Hi,

    This article has actually opened my eyes to both my current and past eating habits, and for that I thank you.

    I spent most of my teenage years and early 20s living off the “list of high salt foods”, e.g. cereals, crisps, biscuits, condiments, pizza, etc. but I never considered I had an issue with salt because I didn’t add extra salt to any of my meals.

    As I’ve got older I’ve been far more conscious of my diet and the things I eat. I have replaced a lot of these high-salt foods with items from the list of “low salt foods”.

    However, I now tend to add additional salt to my meals (which I never did before). I assumed this was an age thing, but in reality I’m just replacing the salt content I’ve lost from my diet.

    Excuse the pun, food for thought.

    Cheers
    Partha

      Sharon · 12/04/2020 at 6:10 PM

      Hi Partha,

      Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I feel I fell into the same pitfall, but after researching and compiling this article, it’s reminded me of the error of my ways.

      I’m sure once you focus on the low salt foods, that’ll keep you on the right track. After all, there are some foods that need a pinch of salt/your favourite condiment to add a bit of flavour, so don’t feel too guilty about it!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Rajith · 12/04/2020 at 6:10 PM

    Hey, Thanks a lot for this great article. I learnt a number of new things. I didn’t know that excess salt can cause stomach cancer, that is scary. One question though, are there any types of food we can take to mitigate the effect of additional salt intake ?

      Sharon · 12/04/2020 at 6:17 PM

      Hi Raijith,

      Great, I’m glad to hear that. It’s suggested in limited research that potassium can offset the effects of excess sodium in the diet, so if you’ve consumed a high-salt meal, perhaps follow it with a high-potassium food, such as a banana.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    alun · 13/04/2020 at 12:38 PM

    Great article, I had no idea on the impact that too much salt could or how important it is in our diets. Definitely going to watch what I eat from now on!

      Sharon · 13/04/2020 at 2:16 PM

      Thank you so much!

      Good to hear you learned a few things that could benefit your health and that you plan to take the tips on board!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Ivan · 13/04/2020 at 1:05 PM

    I probably eat close to a 1.5g of salt each day, which might be a bit too high now when I think about it. In any case, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this post. I’ve learned a lot here. I like you site and the work you do. Keep it up!

      Sharon · 13/04/2020 at 2:17 PM

      Hi Ivan,

      Thanks for sharing your own personal consumption level, it’s always interesting to hear how other people fair in terms of consumption.

      Thank you so much, your feedback is really appreciated!

      Stay tuned for more,
      Sharon

    Tom · 13/04/2020 at 1:38 PM

    Hi Sharon,

    Wow. This article is a real eye opener for me. I didn’t know that there were certain salts you can eat that are actually good for you. I just thought all salt was bad and that you should reduce it as much as possible. That’s what I’ve been brought up to believe all my life.

    It is actually a bit of a relief that some of the salt I intake is good for me. However, I am going to use your advice to try and vary my diet to be a lot healthier. It’s a bit tough at the minute because the shelves in the shops by where I live become empty a lot quicker these days during the coronavirus.

    Thank you for sharing this important article. I have forwarded to my parents to educate them on this topic too.

    All the best and stay safe,

    Tom

      Sharon · 13/04/2020 at 2:22 PM

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your kind words. There is some truth to what you were told throughout your life; however, it’s certainly important to consume adequate salt levels, not under/over-consuming can be a difficult accomplishment though. I completely understand that the current circumstances can make achieving this a bit more difficult, but at least you now possess the knowledge to navigate the shelves and opt for the healthier versions.

      I hope your parents enjoy the article too, thanks for sharing it with them! If they have any queries, do let me know.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    tariq · 13/04/2020 at 2:43 PM

    it’s staggering and sad just how much salt producers put into food…and the salt isn’t even real salt…by that I mean it’s chemically produced. Real salt, sea or rock salt…is much better for you…so not all salt is equal

      Sharon · 13/04/2020 at 2:47 PM

      Hi Tariq,

      It sure is, I think there’s a growing demand for foods containing less salt/sugar/fat, which I hope the food manufacturers pick up on and make more available.
      What you mention there is also something I don’t think many people know, either way, if they don’t purchase salt or can live without it, they won’t need to worry about it.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Lucky · 13/04/2020 at 3:31 PM

    Wow, such an educational post. Today I learnt a lot from your post. There are habits that you inherited indirectly from your parents, such as placing a salt in the table during dinner times and sprinkle that salt to your food not because it is necessary but just because you are used to do so.
    As of today I am changing that to my house hold. I will bookmark your post and share it to my friends. Thanks to you for sharing and educating us

      Sharon · 13/04/2020 at 7:39 PM

      Hi Lucky,

      Cheers, your comments are very much appreciated! That is true, you can blame your parents for the bad habits you picked up hehe.
      Great to hear, you have to make a start somewhere! Out of sight means it’s at least more likely to be out of mind!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Bob · 13/04/2020 at 4:21 PM

    Sharon,
    What I love about your posts are the references that you list at the bottom of your articles lending credibility and demonstrating the care & effort you put into each entry. In terms of the subject matter, it’s not black and white. Salt isn’t inherently bad for you in fact as you point out, it’s an essential mineral. Where you get your salt from and the quantity/quantity of salt you consume are the points to consider
    Well done.

      Sharon · 13/04/2020 at 7:41 PM

      Hi Bob,

      That’s good feedback to hear. The majority of feedback I receive about the references mirrors what you have just said; I felt when adding them, that it’s not just being made up, it’s research-based content.

      You hit the nail right on the head there, balance is key!

      Thanks,
      Sharon

    Suzanne · 14/04/2020 at 7:57 AM

    Great post, Sharon! My husband has cardiovascular issues, so it’s good to have some reinforcement from your post for when I tell him he needs to cut back on his salt intake. I have borderline high blood pressure myself, so I know I need to do better.

    Thanks for the great information!

      Sharon · 14/04/2020 at 5:43 PM

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks, you’re very kind!

      I’m sorry to hear that, it can be a nerve-wracking experience, not just for the person involved, but the loved ones around them. I hope is ok though! Hopefully he heeds your advice, and at least, as you say, you have this article to back it up. Sometimes people need to be scared to motivate them to change.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

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