What Is a Low-Sodium Diet?

A low-sodium diet restricts the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet. On this diet, you should aim to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. This is the amount in about one teaspoon of table salt.

Sodium is a mineral found in many foods. Most people consume much more sodium than they need. Diets high in sodium can increase blood pressure and lead to edema (water retention). A high-sodium diet can also increase your risk of stroke . Reducing your sodium intake can help:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce complications of heart failure and kidney disease

What Foods Are Highest in Sodium?

Foods highest in sodium include table salt (about 50% sodium), convenience foods, preserved foods, and processed foods. Examples of processed foods include:

  • Canned foods
  • Frozen dinners
  • Snack food
  • Packaged starchy foods (eg, seasoned rice, instant mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese)
  • Baking mixes
  • Deli meats and cheeses
  • Sausages and cured or smoked meats

Food Choices on a Low-Sodium Diet

Food CategoryRecommended FoodsFoods to Avoid
  • Breads and rolls without salted tops
  • Ready-to-eat and uncooked cereals (with less than 5% Daily Value [DV] for sodium)
  • Muffins
  • Unsalted crackers and breadsticks
  • Low-sodium or homemade breadcrumbs or stuffing
  • Rice, pasta, bulgur, couscous (prepared without salt)
  • Breads, rolls, and crackers with salted tops
  • Quick breads, self-rising flour, and biscuit mixes
  • Regular bread crumbs
  • Instant hot cereals
  • Commercially prepared rice, pasta, or stuffing mixes
  • All fresh vegetables
  • Frozen and canned vegetables without added salt
  • Low-sodium vegetable juices
  • Regular canned vegetables and juices
  • Sauerkraut
  • Frozen vegetables with sauces
  • Commercially prepared potato and vegetable mixes
  • Fresh, frozen, and canned juices
  • Fruit juices


  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Hard cheeses (including Swiss, cheddar, and Monterey Jack)
  • Low-sodium cheeses (including ricotta, cream cheese, and mozzarella)
  • Ice cream
  • Processed cheese, cottage cheese, cheese spreads, and sauces
  • Buttermilk
Meats and Beans
  • Fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, and shellfish
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Low-sodium peanut butter
  • Dried peas and beans
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Smoked, cured, salted, or canned meat, fish, or poultry (including bacon, cold cuts, frankfurters, sausages, sardines, and anchovies)
  • Frozen, breaded meats
  • Salted nuts
Fats and Oils
  • Low-sodium or unsalted butter and margarine spreads
  • Low-sodium salad dressings made with oil
  • Oil mixed with other, high-sodium ingredients (eg, salad dressing)
Snacks, Sweets, and Condiments
  • Low-sodium or unsalted versions of broths, soups, soy sauce, condiments, and snack foods
  • Pepper, herbs, spices, vinegar, lemon, or lime juice
  • Ice cream, sherbet, homemade pie, and pudding without added salt
  • Broth, soups, gravies, and sauces made from instant mixes or other high-sodium ingredients
  • Salted snack foods
  • Olives
  • Meat tenderizers, seasoning salt, and most flavored vinegars
  • Commercial dessert mixes, cake, pie, instant pudding
  • Most beverages
  • Commercially softened water


  • Include a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. Whenever possible, choose whole foods over processed foods.
  • Read food labels. Look for products marked as:
    • Sodium-free
    • Very low-sodium
    • Low-sodium
    • No added salt
    • Unsalted
  • Skip the salt when cooking or at the table. If food needs more flavor, be creative. Try different herbs and spices. Garlic and onion also add a lot of flavor to foods.
  • Avoid fast food and convenience food. They generally have a lot of added salt.
  • Talk to a registered dietitian for individualized diet advice.