How much salt is good for you?

Date: 2005

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Adapted from the Irish Heart Foundation leaflet (PDF, 1MB), Cut Down on Salt to Reduce your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke.

We all know that too much salt is bad for our hearts. But the fact is that even if you completely stopped adding salt to your food you’d still be 100% over the recommended daily allowance. How? Because between 65% and 70% of the salt we actually eat comes from processed food, fast food, and canteen and restaurant food – so you’re seasoning your heart without realising it. So what can you do?

First, how much salt should I have each day?

A small amount of salt – about 4 grams a day – is essential to health. At most, you should eat 6 grams, or 1 teaspoon. Be careful - that includes salt from processed foods as well as salt you add yourself.

Then, how do I cut down?

Simply reducing or cutting out salt at the table is only a small part of the solution. So, eat more fresh foods, check the amount of salt in ingredients, and gradually reduce the amount of salt you add at the table and during cooking.

Do I have to avoid processed foods?

No, for many people that’s not really practical. Some food companies offer reduced salt products, so always compare labels and choose the product with lowest amount of sodium or salt. Foods high in salt contain more than 1.5g of salt or 0.5g sodium per 100g. (See our What’s a Pinch? leaflet for more detail on how to read the label).

As a guide foods high in salt are:

  • Cured and processed meat e.g. sausages, bacon
  • Packet and tinned soups
  • Sauces, e.g. ready to use sauces
  • Salty savoury snacks, e.g. crisps, instant noodles

Simple ways to cut down on salt

  • Reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking and at the table
  • Season your food with black pepper, herbs, spices, garlic or lemon juice
  • Enjoy fresh vegetables, lean meat and home-cooked meals more often
  • Keep convenience ready-meals to a minimum
  • Check the label for salt or sodium content and choose the lowest salt option

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