How to Reduce Your Salt Consumption

Would you be able to reduce your salt intake in your daily life? Here you will find simple tips that could improve your nutrition and prevent diseases.
How to Reduce Your Salt Consumption
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 17 March, 2023

For the first time in its history, the World Health Organization (WHO) will publish a report on the effectiveness of public policies to reduce salt consumption worldwide. This is crucial because something as simple as eating less sodium every day can prolong life expectancy and reduce the incidence of diseases.

According to some historians, our Paleolithic ancestors ate less than 1 gram (g) of sodium per day. Today, the average for mankind is 4g per day. Clearly, the habits of modernity have brought us to an excess.

Salt was an ideal preservation method in the absence of refrigerators. It was also a valuable commodity that was once even used as wages. Today, buying it is easy and inexpensive. However, we don’t just come into contact with it in its table salt variety. There’s also sodium in the ultra-processed products displayed on grocery store shelves .

Less than 10 % of the world’s population ingests less than the recommended 2 g of sodium per day. This figure is far from the WHO commitment, which proposed that most people should have this limit by 2025.

Why is it important to reduce salt consumption?

The reduction of salt consumption is based on the attempt to limit the incorporation of sodium into the body. The table salt that we add as seasoning is composed of sodium and chlorine. The first of these components has a direct influence on blood pressure values.

Therefore, scientific studies establish that reducing sodium in your diet prevents arterial hypertension (AHT). In fact, patients living with AHT are medically instructed not to add salt to their meals. This is part of their treatment.

The same researchers have not found sufficient evidence that reducing sodium intake reduces all-cause mortality. Even so, controlling blood pressure is a valid method to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

In this context, we must understand that the key point is sodium,  not just salt. If we don’t add table salt to our dishes but still buy ultra-processed products that have a high percentage of sodium on their label, then the final effect will be equally harmful.

In fact, a study in Brazil found that people who consumed more ultra-processed products had the following characteristics:

  • A total salt intake per day above the recommended values
  • Higher sodium output through their urine
  • Elevated cardiovascular risk
  • An increased tendency to be overweight

So, reducing any sodium consumption – even if you don’t reach the WHO recommendation – will be beneficial. Now we tell you how we can do it with a few simple measures.

Persona con hipertensión arterial que debe limitar el consumo de sal.
Controlling salt in their diet is part of the treatment for people living with arterial hypertension.

Tips to reduce sodium in your shopping

When we go to the supermarket or to the store, we can make decisions that help us to limit the sodium that will be available at home. For example:

  • Buy fresh vegetables and not those that come canned. Canneries add a lot of salt for proper preservation.
  • Read the nutritional labeling. In almost all countries, there is an obligation to inform the sodium content of the packaged product. Also, several U.S. states have incorporated black labels to identify foods with an excess of the mineral.
  • In countries where there’s also a “healthy” label for packaged foods, as is the case in the United States, it’s best to opt for them over other options. This label implies a low sodium content.
  • Meats should also be bought fresh, whatever the animal. Canned and cured meats and sausages, as well as frozen foods, have a high proportion of salt.

Do not be fooled by advertisements. Learn to read labels and try to take a critical look while shopping at the supermarket.

Special care should be taken with children. In Argentina, for example, surveys on foods aimed at children found that 97% of them had an inadequate nutritional composition: more than 70% of added sugar and more than 27% of the recommended limit of sodium for the age.

Tips to reduce salt consumption at home

Once at home and with the shopping already done, it’s essential to implement simple measures that force us to limit sodium in our diets. To do so, we can follow the following tips:

  • Season your food without salt. This may seem difficult, especially in cultural environments where table salt is omnipresent. However, you can opt for spices that replace it and even enhance the flavor of your meals. In addition, ingredients such as cardamom, for example, are associated with improved metabolism and reduced cardiovascular risk.
  • Increase the proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals. This will lead you to reduce ultra-processed foods and, in turn, you will incorporate more potassium, which is a mineral that’s capable of balancing the effects of sodium in the body.
  • When preparing pasta, don’t use the fast food versions of pasta. The traditional way, with the dried noodles placed in the pot, is the healthiest way. On the contrary, dehydrated kinds of pasta made in the microwave or in less than 3 minutes contain large amounts of salt.
  • Avoid dressings that are high in sodium. Do not use too ma y commercial sauces, mayonnaise, or mustard added to sandwiches.
  • Take the salt shaker off the table. And take it out of reach in the kitchen. If you have it nearby, then you will use it and add it to your dishes without measuring the limits.
Salero de mesa.
Keeping a salt shaker on restaurant tables is now illegal in some countries. The customer should ask the waiter for it if required.

Not everyone agrees with the WHO

The WHO’s approach to reducing sodium intake below 2 g per day is not approved by all scientific groups. Some experts consider it a difficult limit to apply in world populations, as the current pace of life makes limiting our sodium intake very difficult.

However, the benefits are evident at the cardiac level, and this is no small matter. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reminds us that cardiovascular deaths remain the leading cause of mortality in the world. So, it’s not about making big changes, but even small modifications that have a huge effect on our health and future.

Reducing salt consumption is within everyone’s reach. Let’s start by buying better, reading labels, taking the salt shaker off the table, and reducing our blood pressure.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.