Low Sodium Diet, more commonly referred to as the ‘low-salt diet’ is a diet dedicated to reducing the sodium consumption of an individual. Such a diet is advisable when a person suffers from certain cardiovascular concerns like heart failure and Hypertension. In such conditions, it becomes important to cut down on sodium intake because the body develops a tendency to retain sodium which in turn leads to fluid accumulation witnessed as oedema or swelling in the ankles, feet or abdomen. The extra body fluids require the heart to pump with greater effort. Evidently, the average American Diet is high in sodium as it mainly consists of baked products, fried foods, canned foods and sometimes frozen dinners apart from a lot of other processed and convenience foods, all of which are predominantly high in sodium.
General Guidelines for Low Sodium Diet
- On a low sodium diet, the standard target is to limit intake to less than 2000 mg i.e. 2g of sodium per day.
- Elimination of high-salt food from the diet. High sodium foods are those items that have 400 mg or more of sodium per serving. Food additives such as Monosodium Glutamate and leavening agents used in baked products such as Baking soda or Baking powder are all high in sodium.
- Reduction in the amount of salt used in cooking. Sea salt is not any more helpful than regular salt.
- Selection of low salt or low sodium foods by following food labels; a low sodium food can be specified as one that supplies 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.
- Avoid adding extra salt to food at the table.
- Home-cooked meals score over restaurant foods as one can control the sodium content during preparation.
- Ready to cook or instant foods usually contain sodium preservatives and need to be avoided.
- Foods low in fat need not necessarily be low in salt content, more often than not; salt is used to add flavour to low fat foods.
Foods to be avoided:
- Most varieties of regular or processed cheese and cheese spreads
- Canned vegetables, canned tuna
- Pickled vegetables, olives, sauerkraut
- Commercially packaged noodles, pastas, sauces
- Salted and spiced nuts
- Salted butter, salt seasonings, soy sauce, ketchup
- Smoked or cured meat, poultry or fish including sausages, caviar, sardines
Foods to be included:
- Low sodium cheeses, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese
- Both fresh and canned or frozen fruit
- Most fresh vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes
- Dried fruits
- Home cooked soups with no added salt
- Vinegar, unsalted butter or margarine, sodium-free peanut butter
- Fresh meat, poultry, fish, or eggs
Benefits of Low Sodium Diet
It may take a while before one gets accustomed to consuming a low sodium diet, but it has a number of health benefits –
- Helps to keep the blood pressure in check
- Allows medications like diuretics to be more effective
- Low sodium spices, condiments, herbs and seasonings such as vinegar, basil, thyme, allspice, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and lemon juice can all be used instead of salt to enhance the taste of different dishes. These in turn offer their associated health benefits.
- Coupled with an effective exercise regimen, the low sodium diet has a positive impact on blood pressure levels, tendency of body to accumulate fluids, cardiac output and overall cardiovascular performance.
When eating out, the best option would be to head towards the salad bar. A healthy mix of fresh vegetables including lettuce greens, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, red, yellow and green bell peppers, freshly cut fruits and hard boiled eggs served in their natural state could form an ideal meal. For a dressing, vinegar, lemon juice, and fresh and dry herb seasonings could be used.