With the increasing prevalence of packaged, processed junk at the grocery store, low sodium foods can be hard to find. In fact, 90% of people eat more sodium than they’re supposed to.
Dietary guidelines suggest healthy adults should eat a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium per day (just 1 tsp.). However, the average American consumes between 3,500 and 4,000 mg every day.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report in 2010 advising over 70% of Americans to eat more low sodium foods and cut their sodium intake to just 1,500 mg per day. Among the people included in this recommendation are:
1. People with existing hypertension
2. People age 40 and up
3. African-Americans ages 20 to 39
Health Consequences of Not Eating Enough Low Sodium Foods
If your diet contains a lot of high sodium foods it can lead to serious health problems, including:
– High blood pressure
– Heart attack
– Kidney disease
In a National Institutes of Health study, men and women with pre-hypertension who reduced their sodium intake by 25 to 35% and ate more low sodium foods had a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the 10 to 15 years after they reduced their sodium intake. More and more research is emerging that shows low sodium diets are more important than we think.
Tips For Cutting Back on Sodium
Here are some tips to help you cut down on your daily salt intake and eat less sodium:
- Shop for foods with reduced sodium or no salt added.
- Use herbs and spices, salt-free seasoning blends, vinegars, and citrus in place of salt.
- Read nutrition labels so you become aware of how much salt is in the foods you eat.
- Eat more fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables of various colors, lean meats, poultry, fish, and whole grains.
- Limit your use of sodium-filled condiments, such as salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, and mustard.
- Rinse canned vegetables and beans before using.
- When eating out, tell your server or the manager you’re on a low sodium diet. And, ask if he/she can recommend low-salt dishes or prepare your dish without added salt.
Reading Food Labels
Look for “low-salt” or “low-sodium” labels on cans and packages. These labels mean the food has 140 mg of sodium or less per serving. “Very low sodium” means it has 35 mg or less per serving and “sodium free" signifies 5 mg or less per serving.
Also, pay attention to serving sizes. A 3-serving can of soup with 400 mg of sodium per serving actually gives you 1200 mg of sodium if you eat the whole can. “Reduced-salt" or “reduced-sodium" simply means that the product has at least 25 percent less sodium than the original version of the same product; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is low in sodium.
List of Low Sodium Foods
Here are some basic guidelines to help you pick the right foods for low sodium diets:
Pick these: Fresh Meats from the butcher or Frozen Meats (without breading, seasoning, or marinades), Reduced Sodium Deli Meats
Instead of these: Processed Deli Meats (Pepperoni, Bologna, Salami, Pastrami, Ham, Turkey, Corned Beef), Sausage, Bacon, Hot Dogs, Breaded Meats (Chicken Nuggets, Fish Sticks), Canned Meats (Spam), Smoked or Cured Meats
Pick these: Milk, Yogurt, Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Low Sodium Cheeses (Swiss, Mozzarella)
Instead of these: Buttermilk, Processed Cheese Spreads (Cheez Wiz, Easy Cheese), Processed Cheese (Velveeta, American, Pepper Jack, Nacho Cheese), Pimento and Cheddar Cheese, Cottage Cheese
Pick these: English Muffins, Whole Wheat & Whole Grain Bagels, Pasta, Noodles, and Rice, Cooked Hot Cereals, Unsalted or Low Sodium Snack Foods (Whole Grain Pretzels and Crackers)
Instead of these: Biscuits, Prepared Mixes (Pancake, Muffins, Cornbread), Seasoned Rice, Noodle, or Potato Mixes (i.e., Rice-a-Roni, Macaroni and Cheese), Coating Mixes (Seasoned Bread Crumbs, Shake’n’Bake), Salted Snack Foods (Potato Chips, Corn Chips, Pretzels, Pork Rinds, Crackers)
Pick these: Fresh or Frozen Vegetables, Canned Vegetables with “no salt added,” Low Sodium Vegetable Juices, Reduced Sodium Tomato Sauce, Low Sodium or Natural Peanut Butter, Unsalted Nuts, Dried beans, Peas, or Legumes
Instead of these: Regular Canned Vegetables and Vegetable Juices, Pickles, Relish, Olives, Pepperoncinis
Pick these: Most Fruits or Fruit Juices
Instead of these: No need to limit most fruits or fruit juices when watching your sodium intake
Fats, Oils, and Butter
Pick these: All Natural Plant Oils (olive, coconut), Butter From Grass Fed Cows, Low-sodium Salad Dressing (under 240 mg per serving)
Instead of these: Margarine, Salt Pork, Salad Dressings
Soups, Seasonings and Condiments
Pick these: Low Sodium Soups, Reduced Sodium Tomato Sauce, Fresh or Dried Herbs and Spices, Vinegar, Lemon and Lime Juice and Zest, Onion, Garlic, Pepper, Low Sodium Bouillon, Spice and Herb Table Blends, Low Sodium Soy Sauce
Instead of these: Canned Soups, Dry Soup Mix, Salt, Bouillon, Seasoning Salts, Spice and Herb Mixes w/ added salt, Sauces such as Teriyaki, Soy, Ketchup, BBQ, or Worcestershire
Eating more low sodium foods now can set you up for a healthier life down the road—which could mean more time to spend with those you love. It’s up to you to decide if that’s worth putting down that shaker.
This article is #8 in my 9-part tutorial called “Healthy Eating 101”.
To go to the next article about how much potassium you should eat click here.
To read article #7 about why trans fat is the worst type of fat click here.