How Much Salt is Too Much Salt?

3 years ago

I love salt and use it liberally in my food. I've always congratulated myself on not eating a lot of processed food and instead making everything from scratch. But as I read Michael Moss's Salt, Sugar, Fat, I started to realize that just because I'm making my bread or tomato sauce doesn't mean that I get unlimited rations of salt, sugar, or fat.

So how much salt is too much salt?

Image: Dinner Series via Flickr

According to the CDC, we only need 180 mg - 500 mg of sodium per day. Just to give you a sense of amount, a teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium.


Not that I'm throwing back spoonfuls of salt, but all those sprinkles from the shaker add up, not to mention the salt we already put into our food while cooking. Plus, there's the fact that sodium is hidden in a lot of foods you may not consider "salty."

For optimal health, the CDC recommends the same guidelines as the non-profit Institute of Medicine,

The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans and advises everyone to limit sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day, the Tolerable Upper Limit.

So a little less than a teaspoon per day as the upper limit. People who consume more that the upper limit raise their blood pressure, which leads to other heart problems such as stroke.

But how can a person reduce their salt intake so it falls within the optimal daily amount?

  • Read Labels: a lot of our sodium is hidden in processed foods.  Read the label and keep a running tally of how much sodium you're consuming throughout the day.
  • Use an App: apps like My Fitness Pal keep track of the nutritional value of your food, breaking it down into a multitude of categories.  Track your sodium consumption for a week or two, and see which foods are your major culprits.
  • Order Carefully: let your waiter know that you'd like the chef to go easy on the salt when you're dining out.  Some restaurants also have low-sodium sections of their menu or low-sodium items clearly marked. 
  • Use Other Spices: if you're craving flavour, reach for herbs and spices other than salt in your cooking.
  • Add Salt at the End: instead of adding salt as you're cooking, add salt after you've tasted your food.  You may find that you don't need it.
  • Salt Ration: put your daily table salt ration in a small container.  When it's gone, stop using table salt for the rest of the day.

How do you do with your daily salt intake?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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