The American diet contains a large amount of salt. Many common medical conditions may benefit from restricting salt intake. However, the lower the salt level the more unpalatable the diet may seem and the harder it is to adhere to outside of controlled environments.


The molecular weight of sodium is 22.99 and of chloride is 35.45. Sodium chloride has the molecular weight of 58.44, with sodium representing 39.2%.


Sources of salt:

(1) adding salt to dishes

(2) visibly salted or intrinsically salty foods

(3) salt in processed foods

(4) salt used in cooking

(5) salt inherent to food (like meat and eggs)


Each level teaspoon of salt contains about 2.3 grams of salt (100 mmol).


Salty foods include: pretzels, potato chips, crackers, snacks, pickles, olives, soy sauce, sauerkraut, bacon and salt cured ham.


The average American diet contains 12.5 – 15.0 grams of salt (5 to 6 grams sodium). A restricted diet of 2 grams sodium per day requires patient cooperation, while any further restriction requires increasing commitment.

Total Salt

Total Sodium



10 grams

4 grams (174 mmol)

no added salt


7.5 grams

3 grams (130 mmol)

no added salt, no salty foods, some processed foods

mild to moderate

5.0 grams

2 grams (87 mmol)

no added salt, no salty foods, most processed foods, many condiments


2.5 grams

1 gram (43 mmol)

no added salt, no salty foods, no processed foods unless unsalted, salt free bread


1.25 grams

0.5 grams (21 mmol)

as for 1 gram salt diet, plus restrictions on meat, egg and milk intake

extreme (usually done in hospital)


Many patients on salt restricted diets:

(1) receive diuretics

(2) are instructed to restrict alcohol intake


Failures in salt restriction are common, partially due to nonadherence by patients and partially by the extent of salt in most foods.


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