Guadagnare Salute

Epidemiologia e prevenzione delle malattie cerebro e cardiovascolari


Prevention and lifestyle

Where's the sodium?

Sodium is mainly found in salt and salty foods. According to the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition (Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione - INRAN):[1]

  • more than half (54%) is contained in preserved and precooked foods (it is the salt used in industrial preparation)
  • the sodium contained in fresh food is much less (approximately 10%)
  • the sodium added as salt for cooking or at table is about 36%.

According to estimates by the European Commission, the salt contained in industrial foods or consumed outside home reaches more than 75% and the salt added in domestic preparations is about 10%. [2]


Some examples

  • one pizza is enough to reach the limit of daily amount (2 grams)
  • eating a sandwich with a raw salami instead of a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, you save about 1 gram of sodium
  • using fresh or dried legumes instead of canned ones, up to half a gram of sodium can be avoided
  • beware of bread, crackers and breadsticks: they are not included in the richest in sodium foods, but they can bring a lot of sodium since we eat more portions of them during the day. Eating no-salted bread, on the other hand, practically we do not intake sodium.

Water: Are low sodium ones really useful?

There are low-sodium mineral waters on the market. However, in most mineral waters the sodium content is less than 0.05 grams per liter, which means that to reach 2 grams of sodium you would need to drink more than 40 liters per day! With two liters of water, an average of 0.02 to 0.1 grams of sodium is introduced every day, i.e. only 1 to 5% of the maximum daily recommended amount. 


When the flavor deceives: That salty unsalted

Some foods contain moderate amounts of sodium, although they do not seem salty. This is the case for example of some types of breakfast cereals or cookies: this can happen because the contained sodium is hidden from our taste buds by the sugar. The advice is to get used to consult the label of the food we are going to eat.


More information

  • Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione. Linee guida per una sana alimentazione italiana. (2003 edition). Available at (last access: 28/1/2020)
  • Collated information on salt reduction in the EU, April 2008. Compiled by the European Commission. Disponibile su (last access: 28/1/2020)


© Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS)