A low sodium diet is a diet that includes no more than 1,500 to 2,400 mg of sodium per day (One teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg sodium). People who follow a vigorous or moderate exercise schedule are usually advised to limit their sodium intake to 3,000 mg per day and those with moderate to severe heart failure are usually advised to limit their sodium intake to 2,000 mg per day.
The human minimum requirement for sodium in the diet is about 500 mg per day, which is typically less than one-sixth as much as many diets "seasoned to taste". For certain people with salt-sensitive blood pressure, this extra intake may cause a negative effect on health.
Low sodium content
Unprocessed, fresh foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish and unprocessed grains are low sodium. The availability of low sodium foods is increasing; Due to the difficulty of finding low sodium versions of processed foods that are naturally high in, or contain medium levels of, sodium (such as cereals, soups, and canned seafood), food markets and distributors have recently started opening online businesses that focus on marketing low sodium products. Just like low carb or low calorie products, low sodium products began to take their own place in food marketers’ shelves. Many low sodium products have crossed over from the hospitality industry and are now available online, such as low sodium soup bases.
Other foods that are low in sodium include:
Seasonings: Black, cayenne, or lemon pepper, mustard, some chili or hot sauces
Herbs: Dried or fresh garlic, garlic/onion powder (no salt), dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, oregano, ginger, vinegar, cumin, nutmeg
Fresh fruits and vegetables (celery, carrots, beets, spinach)
Dried beans, peas, rice, lentils
Macaroni, pasta, noodles, rice, barley (cooked in unsalted water)
Unsalted dry curd cottage cheese
Fresh beef, pork, lamb, fish, shrimp, egg
Skim milk, yogurt
Most people eat much more sodium (salt) than they need. This can lead to health problems like high blood pressure. When you go food shopping, keep these tips in mind for reducing the sodium in your diet:
Take the list below with you the next time you go food shopping.
Vegetables and Fruits: Choose fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits when possible.
• Any fresh fruits, like apples, oranges, or bananas
• Any fresh vegetables, like spinach, carrots, or broccoli
• Frozen vegetables without added sauce
• Canned vegetables that are low in sodium or have no salt added
• Low sodium vegetable juice
• Frozen or dried fruit (unsweetened)
• Canned fruit (packed in water or 100% juice)
Breads, Cereals, and Grains: Compare labels to find products with less sodium. When you cook rice or pasta, don’t add salt.
• Plain rice or pasta (Tip: If you buy a package with a seasoning packet, use only part of the packet to reduce the sodium content.)
• Unsweetened shredded wheat
• Unsalted popcorn
Meats, Nuts, and Beans: Choose fresh meats when possible. Some fresh meat has added sodium, so always check the label.
• Fish or shellfish
• Chicken or turkey breast without skin
• Lean cuts of beef or pork
• Unsalted nuts and seeds
• Peas and beans
• Canned beans labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium”
Milk and Milk Products: Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt more often than cheese, which can be high in sodium. Milk and yogurt are also good sources of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
• Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
• Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
• Low sodium or reduced sodium cheese (like Natural Swiss Cheese)
• Soy-based drinks with added calcium (soymilk)
Dressings, Oils, and Condiments: When preparing food, choose ingredients that are low in sodium or have no sodium at all.
• Unsalted butter or margarine
• Vegetable oils (canola, olive, peanut, sesame oil)
• Sodium-free salad dressing and mayonnaise
Seasonings: Try these seasonings instead of salt to flavor food.
• Herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning blends
• Chopped vegetables, such as garlic, onions, and peppers
• Lemons and limes
General Guidelines for Cutting Down on Salt:
• Eliminate salty foods from your diet and reduce the amount of salt used in cooking. Sea salt is no better than regular salt.
• Choose low sodium foods. Many salt-free or reduced salt products are available. When reading food labels, low sodium is defined as 140 mg of sodium per serving.
• Salt substitutes are sometimes made from potassium, so read the label. If you are on a low potassium diet, then check with your doctor before using those salt substitutes.
• Be creative and season your foods with spices, herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper. Remove the salt shaker from the table.
• Read ingredient labels to identify foods high in sodium. Items with 400 mg or more of sodium are high in sodium. High sodium food additives include salt, brine, or other items that say sodium, such as monosodium glutamate.
• Eat more home-cooked meals. Foods cooked from scratch are naturally lower in sodium than most instant and boxed mixes.
• Don’t use softened water for cooking and drinking since it contains added salt.
• Avoid medications which contain sodium such as Alka Seltzer and Bromo Seltzer.
Meats, Poultry, Fish, Legumes, Eggs and Nuts:
• Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar and anchovies
• Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza
• Canned entrees, such as ravioli, spam and chili
• Salted nuts
• Beans canned with salt added
• Any fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish
• Eggs and egg substitutes
• Low-sodium peanut butter
• Dry peas and beans (not canned)
• Low-sodium canned fish
• Drained, water or oil packed canned fish or poultry
• Regular and processed cheese, cheese spreads and sauces
• Cottage cheese
• Milk, yogurt, ice cream and ice milk
• Low-sodium cheeses, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella
Breads, Grains and Cereals:
• Bread and rolls with salted tops
• Quick breads, self-rising flour, biscuit, pancake and waffle mixes
• Pizza, croutons and salted crackers
• Prepackaged, processed mixes for potatoes, rice, pasta and stuffing
• Breads, bagels and rolls without salted tops
• Muffins and most ready-to-eat cereals
• All rice and pasta, but do not to add salt when cooking
• Corn and flour tortillas and noodles
• Low-sodium crackers and breadsticks
• Unsalted popcorn, chips and pretzels
Vegetables and Fruits:
• Regular canned vegetables and vegetable juices
• Olives, pickles, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables
• Vegetables made with ham, bacon or salted pork
• Packaged mixes, such as scalloped or au gratin potatoes, frozen hash browns and Tater Tots
• Commercially prepared pasta and tomato sauces and salsa
• Fresh and frozen vegetables without sauces
• Low-sodium canned vegetables, sauces and juices
• Fresh potatoes, frozen French fries and instant mashed potatoes
• Low-salt tomato or V-8 juice.
• Most fresh, frozen and canned fruit
• Dried fruits
• Regular canned and dehydrated soup, broth and bouillon
• Cup of noodles and seasoned ramen mixes
• Low-sodium canned and dehydrated soups, broth and bouillon
• Homemade soups without added salt
Fats, Desserts and Sweet:
• Soy sauce, seasoning salt, other sauces and marinades
• Bottled salad dressings, regular salad dressing with bacon bits
• Salted butter or margarine
• Instant pudding and cake
• Large portions of ketchup, mustard
• Vinegar, unsalted butter or margarine
• Vegetable oils and low sodium sauces and salad dressings
• All desserts made without salt
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.