Low Salt Diet, Part III: Making Sense of Sodium Labels and Numbers

Read other Low Salt Journey installments: Senior Parents Get Started in Their 80′s: Part IHospital Cafeterias With No Low-Sodium Options? Part IIMaking Sense of Sodium Labels and Numbers: Part III, and 5 Lessons Learned About Cutting Back on Sodium: Low-Salt Eating: Part IV.

Are you having trouble understanding the various terms and numbers on sodium labels? We are, too. Here’s the best explanation that we’ve found.

From the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

… stats below are from Deliciously Healthy Recipes Online, pages 136-137 — a publication of the Healthy People 2010 initiative. The recipes in this book are not particularly low sodium, but otherwise healthy (and not that high sodium either). For low-sodium recipes the NHLBI publishes another book about the DASH Eating Plan, which makes specific suggestions and offers eating plans that  modify sodium content.

Question: What is the meaning of all the different product nutrient label claims?

The best ways to identify heart healthy products is to check the nutrition labels. Here are some terms, along with their definitions, to use when you shop. 
  • Sodium-free: Less than 5 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving
  • Very low sodium: 35 mg or less of sodium per serving
  • Low-sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
  • Low-sodium meal: 140 mg or less of sodium per 3½ ounces
  • Light (or lite) in sodium: At least 50 percent less sodium per serving than the regular version
  • Reduced or less sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the regular version
  • Unsalted or no salt added: No salt added to the product during processing, but this is not necessarily a sodium-free food


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