Learning to read low sodium labels is not limited to the nutrition labels on the back of packages. Many foods are labeled to let customers know they are a ‘healthy’ option, like sodium-free, low sodium or no salt added. While there are federal regulations that determine which products receive these labels, it’s important to know exactly what those low sodium labels mean and if you’re choosing the best option for your low sodium diet.
The Food and Drug Administration has set the following guidelines for low sodium labeling.
These products contain less than 5mgs of sodium per serving
Very Low Sodium
In order to meet the guidelines for Very Low Sodium labeling a product has to contain 35mg of sodium or less per serving.
Products with a low sodium label contain 140mgs of sodium or less per serving.
Instead of relying on a specific number of milligrams per serving, products labeled Reduced Sodium must contain at least 25% less sodium than the regular version of the product. A Reduced Sodium label may seem like a safe choice but that may not always be the case, especially if the regular version of the product is high in sodium.
Soy sauce is one example. Regular soy sauce can contain more than 800 mgs of sodium in one just tablespoon. If you’re on a low sodium diet and are working to keep your sodium intake at 1,500-mgs per day, that tablespoon of soy sauce would be more than half your daily limit. A Reduced Sodium soy sauce may contain more than 500 mgs of sodium per tablespoon, a generous reduction but still one third of your low sodium diet for the day.
Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted
Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted products must contain at least 50% less sodium than the regular version of the product. Again, it’s important to check the exact number of milligrams of sodium are contained in each serving before purchasing products with this label.
No-Salt-Added or Unsalted
No-Salt-Added or Unsalted labels do not mean a product is sodium-free. It means the manufacturers have not added any salt during processing so it’s still important to check the nutrition label for the exact amount of sodium is in each serving.
Learning how to read low sodium labels can be tricky but once you’re up to speed on what those labels really mean and get into the habit of checking the nutrition label of every product you buy, you’ll be able to choose the healthiest options for your low sodium diet.