Avoid Hidden Salt and Sodium for Better Heart Health
Smart grocery shoppers know to double-check any health claim on the front of a package with the nutrition guide listed on the back. There may be no better example of why this is important than the case of sodium and salt.
What Claims on the Front of Food Labels Mean
Some label claims translate to specific amounts of salt and sodium.
- “Salt Free” and “Sodium Free” products contain less than 5 mg of salt/sodium per serving.
- “Very Low Sodium” products contain less than 35 mg of sodium per serving.
- “Low Sodium” products contain less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.
Some claims don’t translate to an absolute number. They compare relative salt and sodium amounts. When compared to standard versions of a product with very high levels of salt or sodium, cutting it by a quarter or even in half can still be too much. Always check the nutrition guide for specific amounts.
- “Reduced Sodium” and “Less Sodium” mean the product contains at least 25% less sodium than the standard version.
- “Light in Sodium” means the product contains 50% less sodium.
Some claims are less clear, making checking the nutrition guide essential.
- “Unsalted” and “No Salt Added” mean no salt is added during processing, but the product could still contain sodium.
- “Healthy and Natural” is a claim that has no nutritional meaning.
- “Heart Healthy” does not mean low sodium.
How to Read the Nutrition Guide
The only way to tell for sure how much salt and sodium is in a food product is to check the nutrition guide on the package. Look at the amount of salt and sodium per serving as listed. Make note of the size of each serving – they’re often smaller than you think. There may be several servings per package, multiplying your salt and/or sodium intake if you consume the whole package.
Compare the amount of salt and sodium in the product with the target amounts of your diet.
Other Sources of Salt and Sodium
Food isn’t the only source of the salt and sodium we consume. Remember to check the labels on beverages and medications, too.
It’s the total amount of salt and sodium you consume that you want to track. Knowing how to read labels will help you avoid products that make managing your diet difficult.