Is salt bad for your heart?
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems.

Key takeaways

  • Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. 
  • Processed and packaged foods are responsible for most of the salt people eat.  
  • The best way to reduce salt is to eat a diet based on fresh foods like fruit and vegetables. 
  • Use herbs and spices to flavour foods during cooking and at the table instead of adding salt. 
3 min read
Salt is a common staple found on most dining tables across Australia. Salt minerals provide your body with important electrolytes that can regulate things like muscle contractions, fluid balance and nerve transmission. Your body only needs small amounts of salt – around 1-2 grams per day.  

Salt is made up of both sodium and chloride, and it’s the sodium part that can be damaging to health. Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amount of salt. Getting this balance right is important, because too much or too little salt can cause health problems.  

How does salt hurt my heart?

Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease. Other health risks associated with eating too much salt, include:  

  • Kidney disease 
  • Stroke 
  • Oedema (fluid retention) 
  • Osteoporosis  

How much salt should I have per day? 

The Heart Foundation recommends 5g of salt (2000mg sodium) as a daily maximum amount, which is about a teaspoon. Studies have shown the most Australians are eating roughly 9g of salt a day, which is nearly double the recommended maximum.   

It is important to remember that all types of salt, including pink Himalayan, rock salt, black salt, table salt and sea salt contain the same amount of sodium. Sodium is the part of salt that can be damaging to health.

What foods are high in salt? 

Processed and packaged foods are responsible for most of the salt people eat. You may find this surprising, as some of these foods don’t even taste salty.  

Foods that significantly contribute to high levels of sodium in your diet include: 

  • Biscuits, muffins, cakes, sauces, pizza, burgers, pasta and noodle dishes  
  • Meat, poultry, and related products, including processed meats like ham and bacon and sausages 
  • Bread, breakfast foods, and other products made from cereals and grains. 
Fresh foods like fruit and vegetables also contain salt but in very low quantities.   

How do I reduce salt in my diet? 

Salt reduction can be achieved by incorporating the following practices into your daily eating habits.  

Eat more veggies

The best way to reduce the salt in your diet is to base your diet around fresh and unprocessed foods, particularly vegetables and fruit. These foods are naturally low in salt and can help improve heart health.   

Use herbs and spices instead of salt:

Add extra flavour to food during cooking with a variety of delicious herbs and spices. These can also replace your salt shaker on the dining table.

Cook at home:

Take-away food and food bought out of the home are often high in salt. Preparing and cooking your food is a good way to reduce salt as you are in control of how much salt is added and can choose ingredients reduced in salt.  

Read labels

Many packaged and processed foods contain hidden salt, so it’s important to read the label and find out how much is inside. On the nutrition information panel, look at the “per 100g” column:

 

  • Low salt foods: Foods that contain fewer than 120mg of sodium per 100g  
  • Moderately salted foods: Foods with fewer than 400mg of sodium per 100g are ok options too. 

 

Tip:  If you are short on time, look for foods labelled ‘low salt’ ‘salt reduced’ or ‘no added salt’.  

Maintaining a healthy salt intake for life 

People with a salty diet have often simply developed a taste for it. As you reduce the amount of salt used in your food, you’ll notice other flavours emerge. Remember that your taste buds will adapt over time and after a few months, you probably won’t notice the lack of salt anymore.

Check out heart-healthy recipes that are low in salt

You might also be interested in

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

Are you within a healthy weight range for your height?...

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels....

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Search all of our heart healthy recipes ...

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Eating healthy foods can help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems. ...

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure

One the easiest steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure is choosing healthy foods....

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Try our Heart Age Calculator to understand what contributes to your risk of heart disease....

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Check out our recipe categories to find your next heart healthy meal....

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Discover key information on heart-healthy eating and drinking....

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Five ways to lower cholesterol

Lower your cholesterol, whether you're eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or even a snack....

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

How can I beat the barriers and get active for a healthy heart?

Nutrition action plan

Nutrition action plan

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health....

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

Question of the month blog...

Quit smoking action plan

Quit smoking action plan

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions. ...

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Cardiac rehabilitation was a turning point for Kylie and essential to her heart failure recovery....

Sodium and salt converter

Sodium and salt converter

Convert the sodium listed on food products into grams of salt or vice versa. ...

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Dairy and your heart health

Not all dairy products are equal. Discover different types of dairy foods and their impact on heart health....

New diet recommendations matter to your heart

New diet recommendations matter to your heart

New diet recommendations matter to your heart

Heart-healthy eating is not about one specific food or nutrient; it’s about regularly eating a variety of healthy foods over time....

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes is an ongoing health condition where your body’s usual ways of controlling your blood sugar, or blood glucose levels, don’t work properly. ...

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

Should you be cooking with coconut oil?

Should you be cooking with coconut oil?

Should you be cooking with coconut oil?

25 June 2018...

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Get the right balance of healthy fats in your diet ...

Sorting fat from fiction

Sorting fat from fiction

Sorting fat from fiction

It seems when healthy eating is the subject, everyone wants to talk about fat. It can be a confusing and polarising topic....

Reading food labels

Reading food labels

Reading food labels

Nutrition information panels and ingredients lists are a good way of comparing similar foods so you can choose the healthiest option....

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

With spring sprung, now is the time to get back to heart-healthy eating. ...

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

How to boost your fruit and vegetable intake to help protect your heart. ...

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

The game is “hide and seek”. You play it without even realising. The shock is that when you play this game, you could be placing your heart health at risk....

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

Find out what a healthy body weight is and the steps you can take to achieve it. ...

You’ll love our heart-healthy winter recipes

You’ll love our heart-healthy winter recipes

You’ll love our heart-healthy winter recipes

Healthy eating to protect your heart

Healthy eating to protect your heart

Healthy eating to protect your heart

What does a heart-friendly diet look like?...

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

If you're 45 and over, or 30 and over if you're of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, you should book your Heart Health Check today...

9 food and heart health myths, busted

9 food and heart health myths, busted

9 food and heart health myths, busted

Let’s dive into nine common food and health myths and the facts behind them....

Heart-healthy drinks

Heart-healthy drinks

Heart-healthy drinks

While water is clearly the most heart-healthy drink, there are ther drinks that can be enjoyed in moderation. ...

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

A selection of heart health information brochures in a range languages...

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out....

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

What are the best sources of protein when it come to your heart health...

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

In Australia, 90% of women have one risk factor for heart disease, and 50% have two or more. ...

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Understand how smoking can impact your heart health. ...

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

How your waist measurement contributes to your heart health...

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

All you need to know about wholegrains to put you on the right track...

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

How we fought heart disease in 2020

How we fought heart disease in 2020

How we fought heart disease in 2020

Everything we do is possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. ...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Lipid management clinical information and resources

Lipid management clinical information and resources

Lipid management resources for health professionals...

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

COVID-19 info & FAQs

COVID-19 info & FAQs

COVID-19 info & FAQs

Information and FAQs about COVID-19 and heart disease....

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

Pauline is a nurse and shares advice for young people who have had a heart event or are recovering from surgery....

National Action Plan for Heart and Stroke

National Action Plan for Heart and Stroke

National Action Plan for Heart and Stroke

The national heart and stroke action plan aims to identify and prioritise action to reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke....

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly....

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition. ...

Cardiac Rehabilitation Advocacy

Cardiac Rehabilitation Advocacy

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Lamb recipes

Find heart healthy lamb recipes....

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Find heart healthy kids recipes...

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Our history

Our history

Our history

For more than 60 years the Heart Foundation has been helping improve heart health across the nation....

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

This cardiac services directory presents information on cardiac rehab programs offered across Australia....

Absolute CVD risk calculator

Absolute CVD risk calculator

The Absolute CVD risk calculator estimates the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years....

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Fruit, vegetables and heart health

How to boost your fruit and vegetable intake to help protect your heart. ...

My health for life program

My health for life program

My health for life program

The Heart Foundation is a proud supporter of the Queensland My health for life program...

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Heart Foundation recipes

Check out our recipe categories to find your next heart healthy meal....

Life changing research currently underway

Life changing research currently underway

Life changing research currently underway

Search our current researcher's and the ground breaking research being undertaken....

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

Heart conditions in women

Heart conditions in women

Heart conditions in women

Like men, women can be diagnosed with a range of heart conditions....

Become a corporate partner

Become a corporate partner

Become a corporate partner

Partner with us to help us fight for Australian hearts....