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Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-.

Informed Health Online.

Tips for reducing your salt intake

Last Update: May 24, 2012.

We need a certain amount of salt to live, but most of us eat much more salt than our bodies need. This can be a cause of high blood pressure. Research has shown that reducing your daily salt intake by a few grams can lower your blood pressure. You can read more about research in this area here.

Generally speaking, processed foods are particularly high in salt. Examples of processed foods include convenience foods, chips and salty snacks, canned fish, cured and smoked meats, and many types of cheese. Fresh and unprocessed foods, on the other hand, are low in salt. They include things like fresh fish, meat and many dairy products such as yoghurt. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are very low in salt – for example, there is only 1 gram of salt in 13 kilos (about 29 pounds) of tomatoes.

If you would like to reduce your salt intake, it is important to have an idea of how much salt there is in various foods. The following list might help:

There is 1 gram of salt in, for example,

  • 1 portion of cheese spread (30 grams) or
  • 2 slices of (semi-)hard cheese (60 grams) or
  • 1 big pot of yoghurt (500 grams, about 1.1 pounds) and half a liter of milk
  • 1 slice of salami (30 grams) or
  • 1 slice of cooked ham (40 grams) or
  • 1 portion of meat spread/pâté (40 grams) or
  • 500 grams of fresh chicken, beef or pork
  • 25 grams of pickled herring (called Matjes in Germany) or
  • 1 can of tuna (150 grams, about 5.3 ounces) or
  • 300 to 500 grams (about 0.7 to 1.1 pounds) of fresh fish
  • 25 grams of salted nuts or
  • 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of potato chips or
  • 750 grams (about 10.5 ounces) of fresh carrots or
  • 600 grams (about 5.2 ounces) of fresh celery.

Pasta, rice and other foods made from cereals are also very low in salt. But here again, the opposite is true for processed food products like cornflakes.

It is not easy to make long-term changes to your eating habits – after all, eating is one of life’s pleasures. But low-salt food does not necessarily have to be bland. To make it tastier, you can season it with fresh or dried herbs, for example. It may also help if you reduce the amount of salt you use gradually, rather than from one day to the next. It is easier to get used to the natural flavors that way.

Snacks that are typically eaten, for example, when watching TV together – like pretzel sticks, salted nuts or chips – are particularly high in salt. Things like carrot, celery and pepper sticks with dips made from yoghurt or sour cream could be an alternative. Fresh fruit skewers offer another low-salt alternative to salty snacks.

Author: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG)

References

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V. (DGE), Österreichische Gesellschaft für Ernährung (ÖGE), Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährungsforschung (SGE), Schweizerische Vereinigung für Ernährung (SVE). Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr. 1st edition. Neustadt: Umschau Buchverlag. 2000.
© IQWiG (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care)

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