Low sodium diet

Salty foods have become a large part of the American diet; with packaged and processed foods a household staple and a salt shaker a part of every meal, it seems there’s no way to avoid it. Wrong! Sodium intake is a completely controllable part of the diet, you just have to know what changes to make and what habits to pick up on. This article will provide tips on how to maintain and manage a low sodium diet. But first, let’s understand why too much sodium is such a bad thing.

Sodium and Health
In certain amounts, sodium is needed by the body because it serves many functions. If there is too much it will hurt the body, but if there is too little, these functions won’t be performed. Fortunately, the body is capable, to a certain extent, of maintaining proper levels of sodium, but there are factors that can have an adverse effect on that control, such as excess sweating or eating too much sodium in the diet. The recommended amount of sodium to get in through the diet is 2,300 mg for healthy individuals and 1,500 mg if you already have high blood pressure.

  • Electrolyte. Sodium has an important role as an electrolyte, regulating the balance of fluid inside and outside of the body’s cells. If there isn’t enough sodium to regulate this, either too much fluid will be inside the cells causing them to swell, or too much fluid will be outside the cells causing them to shrivel.
  • Nutrients. Sodium is partially responsible for passing nutrients into and out of cells.
  • Sweating. When you get heated from exertion or from being outside, the body sweats in an effort to cool down. This is because of a function of sodium. If you don’t have enough sodium to sweat, you will become overheated.
  • Blood pressure. This is probably where you’ve heard the importance of sodium being discussed. Sodium plays a major part in regulating blood pressure. Put simply, too much sodium in the diet causes too much fluid to be left behind in the blood vessels, causing the heart to have to work harder to pump the blood to all the tissues in the body. The volume of blood is increasing, but the size of the vessels is staying the same.

Diet: Low Sodium
It is actually easier than you think to incorporate low sodium foods into the diet. Here are some quick tips. Don’t eat processed, packaged, or prepared foods because they tend to be really high in sodium. Salt acts as a preservative on these foods. If you can’t completely eliminate them, eat them sparingly. Don’t add extra salt to foods. Try adding herbs and spices for flavor because they are sodium-free and taste just as good, if not better.

Use condiments sparingly. Many condiments are also high in sodium. Try using a minimal amount or another salt-free seasoning so you get all the flavor. Also, you can always make your own ketchup or BBQ sauce with very little salt.

Look at food labels. Food labels give you all the information you need to know; you just have to learn how to read them. Look for foods that are labeled “sodium-free”, “salt-free”, “very low sodium”, “low sodium”, “reduced sodium”, “light sodium”, or “no salt added.” Although each of these means a slightly different thing, they all have no additional salt or very low salt. However, there is one exception; reduced sodium means that there is only 25% less sodium than the original. This can be misleading because we don’t automatically know what the original amount was. Choose foods that are low or very low in sodium, or no salt added.

Eat more fresh foods and produce. You can never go wrong with fresh foods, fruits, and vegetables. They are naturally low in sodium. When eating lunchmeat, always choose fresh because prepackaged lunchmeats have a lot more sodium than is necessary.

Last updated on Oct 31st, 2010 and filed under Healthy Eating. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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