Sodium is an essential mineral that does several functions in the body. It is present naturally in foods like vegetables and eggs, and also a component of table salt.
Though it is important to health, dietary sodium is sometimes less under certain circumstances.
For example, a low sodium diet is generally recommended to people with ailments like kidney disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure.
Sodium is an important mineral responsible for body functions, including fluid regulation, cellular functions regulating blood pressure, and electrolytes.
Because this mineral is important for life, your kidney strictly regulates its level according to body fluid concentration.
Sodium present in most foods you consume like fruits, vegetables, and poultry consists of low amounts.
Plant-based foods like fresh produce commonly have low sodium than animal-based foods, such as dairy and meat products.
Sodium is most concentrated during processing time and packaged foods like frozen dinners, chips, and fast food where salt is included while processing to enhance flavor.
Another primary contributor to sodium consumption is added salt to taste food while preparing meals in the kitchen and as food seasoning before eating.
In a low sodium diet, you will have to eat fewer foods and beverages containing high sodium.
Fast facts about salt
- The body requires salt, but high or low salt can create problems.
- Sodium makes up 40% of salt. If a food label states sodium instead of salt, then multiply the answer by 2.5 for proper salt content.
- Most Americans eat high salt, and 75% of it is hidden in packed and processed foods.
- The American-Heart Association suggests a high intake of not more than 2.3 gm or 2,300 mg of sodium every day or nearly one teaspoon, and not more than 1,500 mg.
Physician commonly recommends these diets to treat the conditions such as heart problem and blood pressure. Although there are differences, sodium consumption is commonly kept to lower than 2-13 gm that 2,000 to 3,000 mg every day.
For example, one teaspoon of salt consists of 2,300 mg of sodium. When following a low sodium diet, foods with high sodium must be reduced or completely avoid to keep the sodium consumption under the suggested level.
How Much Is Too Much?
It is important to know that how much salt is safe for consumption. The American-Heart Association suggests a limit of 1,500 mg every day. The FDA suggested a limit of 2,300 mg of sodium every day. The US dietary guidelines used to suggest a limit of 1500 mg every day for people of 51 age, and ailments like kidney disease, blood pressure, and diabetes. But now it is changed to 1500mg every day only for the individual with high blood pressure and 2,300 mg for all.
Reasons for Low Sodium Diet
Low sodium diets are some of the most used diets in hospitals. It is because research indicates that limiting sodium may help to improve or control medical conditions.
Kidney diseases like chronic kidney failure or kidney disease negatively affect kidney function. When your kidneys are compromised, they are not able to effectively release extra sodium or fluid from the body. If fluid and sodium levels become higher, pressure develops in the blood, which can cause further damage to already affected kidneys.
For these reasons, the National-Kidney-Foundation suggests that all people with CKD restrict their sodium consumption to lower than 2gm than 2,000 mg every day (Source).
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the risk factors for different conditions, including stroke and heart disease. A high sodium diet has been connected to raised blood pressure. For example, a recent study in 766 individuals demonstrated that people with more urinary sodium excretion had the highest blood pressure levels.
Various studies have shown that lowering salt consumption may help to reduce high blood pressure in people with raised levels.
According to a review of 6-studies in more than 3,000 people, limited salt lowers the blood pressure in adults with a powerful effect observed in those with high blood pressure.
Salt sensitivity of people with high blood pressure varies widely and certain subgroups like American, African tend to be highly affected by a high salt diet.
Low sodium diets are generally suggested to people with heart problems.
When the heart is compromised, kidney functions begin to decline, which can cause water and sodium retention.
Eating high salt could cause fluid overload in individuals with heart failure and lead to risky complications, such as breath shortness. Regulatory agencies suggest that individuals with mild heart failure reduce their sodium consumption to 3,000 mg every day while those with medium to severe heart failure should lower their consumption by no more than 2,000 mg every day.
However, according to many types of research low sodium diets help those with heart malfunction, others have remarked that no restriction diets contribute to better results. For example, a study in 833 people with heart failure discovered that a sodium-restricted diet with lower than 2,500 mg every day was linked with a significantly higher risk of death or hospitalization than unrestricted sodium diets with 2,500 mg or more every day.
Is Food Taste Bland With Low Salt?
Using less salt, you can feel the natural flavor, especially when you use cooking methods and flavourful ingredients to enhance it.
Over time, your taste buds can adjust to liking low salt. Research shows that when people follow to reduced-sodium diet, they begin to prefer it and that the foods they used to enjoy the saltier taste.
Benefits Of Low Sodium Diet
Manage Electrolyte Balance
Make sure that your body and muscles work properly to balance pH. Managing electrolytes is very essential, and sodium is one of the primary components of this electrolyte.
If muscle cramps often limit exercise then try to follow a low sodium diet. This diet also prevents bloating, muscular cramps, and dehydration.
Boost Energy Throughout the Day
A low sodium diet will help to regulate energy levels. High consumption of sodium causes it to thicken the arteries, which improves heart rate and decreases blood supply. Therefore, you will feel exhausted easily. Eating low sodium help to stop arteries from choking and feel more energetic and less fatigued.
Reduce Your Risk of Stroke
Improper blood flow level to the brain is the main cause of stroke. Sodium is known to blood flow level to the brain. Sodium also helps to control blood in the body because too little or too high can be harmful.
Lower your LDL cholesterol
High blood pressure is one reason for metabolic syndrome. It includes getting high cholesterol reading. Packaged foods with high sodium tend to be more in cholesterol also.
Limit Congestive Heart Failure
When the heart needs to pump harder to supply blood from vessels, it can cause heart failure. A low sodium diet helps to prevent congestive heart failure.
Reduce The Risk Of Kidney Damage
The blood vessels present in the kidneys can become narrowed and weakened, which can lead to kidney failure. A low sodium diet benefits to reduce kidney damage.
Limit Your Risk Of Stroke
The decreased blood flow to the brain can cause raise stroke risk. A low sodium diet benefits to prevent stroke.
Lower Brain Aneurysm
When your blood pressure stays high it can lead to weakening blood vessels. You can get bleed in your brain with life risky results. Following low sodium diet help to limit brain aneurysm.
Apart from carrots, a low sodium diet also benefits to manage high blood pressure, which can cause to tear the blood vessels and lead to vision loss. Therefore, eat low salt foods in your diet.
Lower Diabetes Risk
A diet with high salty foods looks interesting in flavor but those foods can cause increased diabetes. Reducing salt also helps in managing diabetes.
Improve Your Memory
The ability to think and develop memories is linked to brain health. High blood pressure can cause reduced blood flow to the brain.
Reduce Your Risk Of Dementia
Vascular dementia is a kind of dementia linked to decreased blood flow to the brain. A low sodium diet helps to lower the dementia risk.
Reduce the thickening and hardening of arteries
Continual high blood pressure will lead to walls of arteries becoming harder and thicker. It is more problematic for blood to move from stiff vessels.
Lower Swelling and Bloating
High sodium cause fluid retention in the body. You will see lower swelling and bloating when you cut back the sodium consumption.
Eating more slaty foods makes you dehydrated and thirsty. Often, people will choose high-calorie drinks like alcohol or soda, which later increase thirst. Lowering sodium helps to reduce unhealthy drink cravings.
Prevent Salt Cravings
If you keep eating salty foods, your taste buds adapt to high saltiness. Lowering sodium can help to reduce salt cravings.
Reduce Risk For Headaches
A meal containing high salt cause blood vessels to expand in the brain. These pounding blood vessels can be the reason behind the painful headaches. A low sodium diet also helps to prevent headaches.
Build stronger bones
Salt manages how much calcium is pulled from bones. Calcium is an essential mineral for strong bones and limits osteoporosis. A high sodium diet can cause weak bones with calcium loss. Therefore, limit your sodium consumption.
Lower Kidney Stone Chances
When calcium gets drained out of the body into urine, it will be a high risk of kidney stones. A high salt diet raises the calcium in your kidneys. More calcium affects kidney functions and forms stones. A low sodium diet helps to prevent stone formation.
Let Your Heart pump effectively
When the heart gets overwork, it feels hard to pump the blood and the heart muscle becomes thick. High blood pressure occurred by high sodium keep stress over heart walls. It can be like squeezing a complete water balloon. It takes extra force to full balloon. The heart can pump extra easily when your blood pressure is at an average level.
Reduce Stomach Cancer Risk
There is a name as helicobacter pylori. These bacteria present in the stomach. The h. Bacteria grow when you eat high salt food. Bacteria are the main risk factor for stomach cancer.
Ways To Limit Sodium In Your Food
The instant way to lower sodium in your food is in its natural state. That does not mean you have to leave every flavor, dressing, sauces, or eating outside. These ideas can benefit to cut back on salt during raising the yum factor.
Boost the flavor
Increase the flavor of naturally healthy food by including spices, herbs, and some healthy oil. You can choose condiments like nuts, infused olive oil, flavored vinegar.
Stock Up All Spices
Spices are secret ingredients. Salt is a common ingredient to enhance the flavor but spices provide more benefits. For example, when cooking eggs for breakfast do not finish without a salt sprinkle. Herbs and spices can include a satisfying taste that makes forget the salt.
Try for a new flavor by adding:
Fresh or dry dill
An Italian spice blends
Avoid Guessing Added Salt
The recommended quantity of salt in a day is lower than one teaspoon. You might feel surprised by how much that can be. When you are cooking, use a measuring spoon instead of guessing. Try to use half quantity or less of the salt needed. When you are including salt at the table, do not use the shaker to sprinkle it. You can try the following methods.
Keep a ¼ teaspoon of salt in your hand and observe how much space it is taking.
Use another container using a small scoop for salt measuring. Check the amount of salt to be aware of using.
Make sure to stay hydrated. You may feel salt craving after exercise, surgery, or illness. Try to drink a cool glass of water with lemon or lime or a natural electrolyte replacement. You may experience that when you quench your thirst, you will no longer need extra salt.
Plan Your Meals in Advance
Convenience and processed foods containing high salt. Meal planning is an ideal way to include food in your diet that is lower in sodium.
Here are 20 healthy and filling low salty snacks that help to prevent salty craving.
- Salted peanuts – unsalted almonds
- nut butter – an apple.
- Check for a label for sodium content.
- Flavored popcorn – Unsalted popcorn
- chili powder, or cinnamon
- Potato chips – Carrot sticks dipped with olive oil.
- balsamic vinegar – thyme
- Pork rinds – snow peas
- An ice cream sandwich – banana and almond butter
- A popsicle – orange slices
- Ice cream – yogurt mixed with berries and nuts
- Retail trail mix – homemade mix (combine unsalted almonds, sunflower seeds & peanuts. Toss with some cinnamon and olive oil)
- Tortilla chips & salsa with cucumber slices and salsa.
- Crackers and dip – hummus & celery sticks
- Pepperoni sticks – low sodium deli meat covered with a lettuce leaf
- One cup of pudding – a homemade fruit salad having apples, grapes, oranges, melon)
- A milkshake – fresh smoothie made with milk
- Pretzels – pear slices with low sodium cheese
- An oatmeal cookie – a bowl of oatmeal containing fresh berries
- A can of soda – a cup of bright water with lime juice
- A donut – fresh watermelon slices
- French fries – veggies such as celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, or carrots dipped in a low sodium spread dressing.
Eat delicious and nutritious choices of foods. By adding vegetables, whole fruits, and healthy meat to fuel your body.
Improve Diet Quality
Various unhealthy foods consist of high sodium.
Fast food, frozen and packaged meals are not only containing high sodium but also have unhealthy calories and fats.
Frequent intake of these foods has been related to health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
While on a low sodium diet, these high salt foods are off-limits, which may improve the overall quality of the diet.
Foods to Avoid
Here are the foods to avoid during a low sodium diet, which contains high sodium.
Fast food: fries, burgers, pizza, chicken fingers.
Salty snack foods: chips, salted pretzels, salted crackers,
Frozen dinners: Frozen pizza, and frozen meat dishes.
Processed meats: sausage, bacon, lunch meats, and hot dogs.
Canned, Salted products: Pasta, vegetables, fish, and meat.
Salty soups: Packages and canned soups.
Cheese and dairy: cheese spreads, cheese, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cheese sauce, and salted butter
High sodium Baked products: salted bagels, salted rolls, crackers, and croutons.
Baking mixes: pancake, waffle, and came mix.
Boxed meals: Cheese, macaroni, rice meals, and pasta meals.
High-sodium side dishes: rice pilaf, stuffing, boxed au gratin, potatoes, and hash browns.
Condiments and Sauces: Soy sauce, gravy, tomato sauce, salad dressing, and salsa.
Pickled vegetables: Pickles, sauerkraut, and olives.
Certain drinks: Regular juice blends, vegetable juice, and salty alcoholic beverages.
Seasonings: Salt blends and Salt.
Even though some foods like processed meats and vegetables naturally consist of some sodium, it’s insignificant in contrast to the sodium amount included in commercially prepared foods.
The best way to skip high sodium foods is to limit salty food and snacks, packaged meals, and fast foods.
Low-Sodium Foods to Eat
If you are on a low sodium diet, it is important to choose foods that contain low sodium or limited added salt.
Fresh and frozen vegetables without having sauces: Greens, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, etc.
Fresh, or dried, or frozen fruits: Pears, Berries, apples, bananas.
Grains and beans: Dried beans, farro, quinoa, cauliflower, and whole wheat pasta.
Starchy vegetables: Butternut squash, parsnips, Potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Fresh or frozen poultry and meat: Chicken, beef, turkey, or pork.
Fresh or frozen fish: cod, tuna, and sea bass, etc.
Eggs: full eggs and egg whites.
Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocado oil, and avocado.
Low-sodium soups: Homemade soups and Low-sodium canned.
Dairy products: Milk, unsalted butter, yogurt, and low-sodium cheeses.
Baked goods and Bread: low-sodium tortillas, Whole-wheat bread, and unsalted crackers.
Unsalted seeds and nuts: Pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, etc.
Low-sodium snack foods: Unsalted popcorn, Unsalted pretzels, and unsalted tortilla chips.
Low-sodium condiments: Mayonnaise, Vinegar, low-sodium are low-sodium sauces, and salad dressing.
Low-sodium beverages: Coffee, tea, low-sodium vegetable juice, and water.
Low-sodium seasonings: No-salt blends, Garlic powder, herbs, and spices.
Side Effects of Restricting Sodium
Increase in Insulin Resistance
Some studies have related low sodium diets to raise insulin resistance(Source). Insulin resistance is when the body’s cells do not respond well to signal the insulin hormone and cause higher insulin and blood sugar.
No Obvious Benefit for Heart Disease
It is right that lowering sodium consumption help to reduce high blood pressure. However, blood pressure is only one of the risk factors for ailments. What is important is difficult endpoints like a heart attack or even death. Many observational studies have noticed the effects of low sodium diets on strokes, heart attacks, and death risk(Source).
More Risk Of Heart Failure And Death
Heart failure is when the heart is not capable to pass enough blood around the body to reach its requirement for oxygen and blood. This doesn’t mean that the heart ends working totally, but it is still a dangerous health issue.
Low sodium diets have been related to a high risk of death in an individual with heart failure.
Increase LDL cholesterol
Different factors can raise the heart disease risk, including raised triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Some studies have discovered that low sodium diets may raise triglyceride levels and bad cholesterol.
Raised Risk Of Death In An Individual With Diabetes
An individual with diabetes has more risk of stroke and heart attack.
Therefore, different guidelines for people with diabetes suggest reducing salt consumption. However, some research has discovered a link between low sodium intake and death risk among those with type 1 & 2 diabetes.
Higher risk of hyponatremia
Hyponatremia is a condition featured by low sodium levels in the blood. Its symptoms are the same as those caused by dehydration. In severe cases, the brain may get swelling, which can cause seizures, headaches, death, and coma. Certain populations like senior people have a higher risk for hyponatremia(Source). That is because senior people are more prone to ailments.