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Salt

There's a place for salt in a healthy eating plan, but most of us consume two or even three times the recommended amount, often without even realizing it. We do, however, need small amounts of salt for healthy functioning, such as maintaining a proper fluid balance in the body.

The blood pressure connection

About one-third of people are sensitive to the sodium component of salt. This means that eating foods with too much salt can increase the amount of blood in the arteries, raising blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

If you can lower your intake little by little each day, you can reduce blood pressure. Because our diets are generally so high in salt, everybody – even those with normal blood pressure – can benefit from reducing salt intake.

Foods with high salt content

About 80% of the salt we consume comes from processed foods, including fast foods, prepared meals, processed meats such as hot dogs and lunchmeats, canned soups, bottled dressings, packaged sauces, condiments such as ketchup and pickles, and salty snacks like potato chips.

Steps you can take to lower salt intake

Make as many meals at home so that you can control the amount of salt you add to your food. See our recipe file for low-sodium soups, salads, main courses and desserts.

When you’re grocery shopping, check the Nutrition Facts table on food products for sodium or salt. (Use our interactive Nutrition Facts table tool to learn how to read labels.) 

Choose products that have a lower percentage daily value for sodium. Look for food products that are lower in sodium per serving. For example:

Ingredient and serving size

% Daily Value

Small serving of crackers (20 g)

10%

Soups (125 mL condensed, 250 mL serving)

20% to 27%

Entrée (per serving = 720 mg)

30%

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, please speak to your doctor about the amount of sodium you should be consuming on a daily basis.

To help reduce added, unnecessary salt:

  • Cut down on prepared and processed foods.
  • Look for products with claims such as low sodium, sodium reduced or no salt added.
  • Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Reduce the amount of salt you add while cooking, baking or at the table. 
  • Experiment with other seasonings, such as garlic, lemon juice and fresh or dried herbs.
  • When eating out, ask for nutrient information for the menu items and select meals lower in sodium.
  • Look for the Health Check™ symbol on foods. Health Check is the Heart and Stroke Foundation's food information program, based on Canada's Food Guide.

Get more great tips and shopping advice to reduce your salt intake. 

Last reviewed April 2011