September 13, 2020/Nutrition

Do You Know Where Salt Is Hiding in Your Food?

Keeping an eye on your sodium intake has many health benefits

submarine sandwich with hidden salt

From our favorite pretzels to our daily sandwiches, salt is in almost everything we eat. But how much is too much?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Studies show that cutting down on sodium in your diet can lower blood pressure — reducing your risk of stroke, heart failure and other health problems, says hypertension specialist George Thomas, MD.

The American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. People with certain medical conditions should consume even less.

Is sea salt healthier?

Sea salt is generally marketed as a “natural” and “healthier” alternative.

The main differences between sea salt and table salt are in taste, texture and processing. Sea salt has a stronger flavor. However, what people should remember is that both sea salt and table salt have the same amount of sodium by weight.

According to the AHA, a teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium while a teaspoon of sea salt may have less sodium only because fewer salt crystals fit on the spoon.

“When it comes down to it, sea salt doesn’t offer any health advantages over regular table salt,” says Dr. Thomas.


Should I just stop using the salt shaker?

It does help to avoid adding salt to your food at the table, but unfortunately, a major part of the sodium in American diets — more than 70% — comes from processed and packaged foods. These foods can be high in sodium even if they don’t taste salty.

Processed foods include:

  • Frozen meals.
  • Canned or pickled foods.
  • Snack foods.
  • Deli meat.
  • Cheese.
  • Condiments, sauces and dressings.
  • Breads.
  • Cereals.
  • Soda (including diet soda).

Checking labels is the only way to know how much sodium is in your food. If you buy packaged or processed foods, choose foods that are labeled sodium-free or very low sodium.

“Remember that the amount of sodium listed on the ingredient label references a particular serving size,” says Dr. Thomas. “If you eat more than the listed serving size, you’ll consume more sodium.”

How much sodium is in popular foods?

The AHA has a list of six popular foods with high sodium content dubbed the “Salty Six”:

  1. Breads and rolls: Each piece can have up to 230 mg of sodium.
  2. Pizza: One slice can have up to 760 mg of sodium.
  3. Cold cuts and cured meats: Two slices of bologna has 578 mg of sodium.
  4. Poultry: Especially chicken nuggets. Just 3 ounces have nearly 600 mg of sodium.
  5. Canned soups: One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 mg of sodium.
  6. Sandwiches: Consider the bread, cured meats, processed cheese and condiments can easily surpass 1,500 mg of sodium.

When making plans to your favorite restaurant, sometimes the restaurant will add their menu’s nutritional values on their website. If possible, take a look before you go. This can help you make a decision based on how much sodium is in your meal of choice.


Try the DASH diet for high blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a low-sodium intervention. All the foods you would eat are low in fat.

The diet calls for four to five servings of fruit, four to five servings of vegetables, and two to three servings of low-fat dairy. It’s also rich in whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts – while also limiting sugar and red meats.

Work with your doctor or dietitian to figure out a meal plan for you with the DASH diet.

It is possible to train your taste buds to eat less salt. You may not like eating food without sodium at first, but your taste buds will adjust over time.

“Try using natural substitutes like lemon, ginger, curry, dried herbs (such as bay leaves, basil and rosemary), onion, garlic and dry mustard,” says Dr. Thomas. “You might also use salt substitutes, but check with your doctor first.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Giant letter K with foods with vitamin K and supplements surrounding it
March 25, 2024/Nutrition
The Power of Potassium: Why You Need This Essential Mineral

Found in an abundance of foods, potassium is an electrolyte that helps your muscles contract and acts as a counterbalance to sodium

A wooden spoonful of salt on a granite tabletop with salt scattered around
February 28, 2024/Nutrition
Why Too Much Salt Can Be Bad for You

Excess salt and sodium consumption is a worldwide health concern

person drinking an electrolyte sports drink outdoors
June 29, 2023/Exercise & Fitness
Is Salt an Electrolyte?

Two key electrolytes — sodium and chloride — are the building blocks of salt

Person inhaling smelling salts from packet.
June 26, 2023/Exercise & Fitness
What Smelling Salts Do to Your Body

Unproven and unregulated, they aren’t the best choice to boost performance

watch your salt intake
February 10, 2022/Nutrition
How To Lower Your Salt Intake

Too much salt in your diet? Here’s how to cut back

A close up photo of a MSG powder in a bowl and spoon.
January 18, 2022/Nutrition
Is MSG Actually Bad for You?

This flavor enhancer has a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve

spilled salt shaker
May 27, 2021/Nutrition
Are Salt Substitutes a Healthy Way to Lower Your Sodium Intake?

How to make your meals less salty and more flavorful

salt lamp
April 19, 2021/Wellness
Are There Any Health Benefits to Himalayan Salt Lamps?

Experts say health & environmental evidence is lacking

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey