How much salt is good for me?

We all need a little bit of sodium, because it helps to keep our body fluids at the right concentration. Salt is the main source of sodium in the UK diet; however, most of us eat more salt than we need. If you eat too much salt, your volume of body fluids increases and pushes up your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to serious problems, such as heart disease or stroke.

Salt recommendations

On average, people in the UK eat about 8.1g of salt (3.2g sodium) a day. This may not sound like much, but to reduce the risk of disease, adults should not be eating more than 6g of salt (2.4g sodium) a day.

Salt levels should be much lower than this for babies and children. Babies should have less than 1g of salt a day. The daily recommended maximum amount of salt children should eat depends on their age: 

  • 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)
  • 4 to 6 years – 3g of salt a day (1.2g sodium)
  • 7 to 10 years – 5g of salt a day (2g sodium)
  • 11 years and over – 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium)

Salty tips

As salt is often a "hidden" ingredient in many foods, it can sometimes be difficult to work out how much you are eating. Some foods, such as crisps, olives and bacon, taste obviously salty and can easily be removed from your diet if you are trying to cut down.

However, 75% of the salt we eat comes from ready-made foods, such as bread, cereals and baked beans. Even sweet things, such as biscuits, have salt added to them.

To keep track of your salt intake, get into the habit of reading the nutritional information on food labels, where you will find the salt (sodium) content for a 100g serving. As a rough guide:

  • a high amount of salt is more than 1.5g for 100g (0.6g sodium)
  • a low amount of salt is 0.3g for 100g (0.1g sodium)

See tips for a lower-salt diet for more information and advice on reducing your salt intake.

Salt and effervescent tablets

Effervescent vitamin supplements or effervescent painkillers can contain up to 1g of salt per tablet. Consider changing to a non-effervescent tablet, particularly if you have been advised to watch or reduce your salt intake.

Further information:

Video: say no to salt

Dietitian Azmina Govindji talks about the risks associated with eating too much salt, such as high blood pressure. Find out how much your daily salt intake should be, what foods are high in salt and how to understand food labels.

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Next review due:

Page last reviewed: 06/03/2015

Next review due: 05/03/2017