How to Read Sodium Content on Nutrition Labels

Millions of newly-diagnosed U.S. patients experienced their doctor or specialist speak with vigor about the evils of sodium upon learning of their hypertension–or high blood pressure. But did you know 9 out of 10 Americans eat more salt than what’s recommended? One important step anyone can take to cut back on how much you consume is to learn what the labels on food packaging actually mean. It can be confusing. Use this cheat sheet as your guide. At first you might even want to print it out and take it with you to the grocery store!

The FDA’s Definitions for Sodium Label Claims

  • “Sodium-Free” or “Salt-Free”
    Less than 5 mg per labeled serving.
  • “Very Low Sodium”/”Very Low Salt”
    35 mg or less per serving.
  • “Low Sodium” or “Low Salt”
    140 mg or less per serving.
  • “Reduced Sodium” or “Reduced Salt”
    At least 25 percent less per serving than a similar product.
  • “Light in Sodium” or “Lightly Salted”
    At least 50 percent less per serving than a similar product
  • “No Salt Added” or “Unsalted”
    This means the food doesn’t have any extra salt, not that it is totally salt-free. The FDA says companies must also add, “This Is Not a Sodium Free Food,” to help remind you.
“Sodium Claim” or “Salt Claim”
Amount or percentage of sodium

When your doctor or nutritional adviser has ordered you to be on a low-sodium or no-salt diet/lifestyle, the above information will be crucial to the success of your plan and your health.

D.A.S.H. Diet – Not Just for Those With High Blood Pressure

Before most health practitioners prescribe medications or other treatments for hypertension or high blood pressure, their first prescription is the D.A.S.H. Diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

The diet is rich in:

It includes:

  • meat
  • fish
  • poultry
  • nuts
  • beans

But limited in:

  • red meat
  • added fats
  • sugar-sweetened foods & beverages
  • foods containing added salt and sodium

In addition to benefiting patients with hypertension due to its lowering effect on blood pressure, D.A.S.H. is recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as one of its ideal eating plans for all Americans.

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