Too much sodium may cause your body to hold on to extra water, which can raise your blood pressure and force your heart and kidneys to work harder. By limiting sodium, you will lower your risk of serious health issues.
Where is all that sodium coming from?
The most common source of sodium is salt. According to the American Heart Association, up to 75 percent of the sodium that Americans consume is found in processed foods such as tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes. Fast food and restaurant meals also are very high in sodium. Doctors recommend reducing your sodium consumption to less than 1,500 milligrams a day if you are 51 or older, are African American or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
How can you reduce sodium in your diet?
Read food labels
- Read labels on cans and food packages. The labels tell you how much sodium is in each serving. Make sure that you look at the serving size. If you eat more than the serving size, you have eaten more sodium.
- Food labels also tell you the Percent Daily Value (%DV) for sodium (based on 2,400 milligrams a day). Choose products with low (less than 5) Percent Daily Values for sodium.
- Be aware that sodium can come in forms other than salt, including monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium citrate and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Buy low-sodium foods
- Buy foods that are labeled “unsalted” (no salt added), “sodium-free” (less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving) or “low-sodium” (less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving). Foods labeled “reduced-sodium” (less than 25 percent of the regular product) and “light sodium” (less than 50 percent of the regular product) may still have too much sodium. Be sure to read the label.
- Buy fresh vegetables, or frozen vegetables without added sauces.
- Buy low-sodium versions of canned vegetables, soups and other canned goods.
Prepare low-sodium meals
- Cut back on the amount of salt you use in cooking and don’t add salt after cooking. One teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
- Take the saltshaker off the table or fill it with your favorite herb mixture instead.
- Flavor your food with garlic, lemon juice, onion, vinegar, herbs and spices. Avoid using soy sauce, lite soy sauce, steak sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, celery salt, mustard or ketchup on your food.
- Use low-sodium salad dressings, sauces and ketchup. Or make your own salad dressings and sauces without salt.
- Use less salt (or none) when recipes call for it. You can often use half the salt a recipe calls for without losing flavor.
- Rinse canned vegetables, and cook them in fresh water. This removes some — but not all — of the salt.
Avoid eating high-sodium foods
High sodium foods include:
- Smoked, cured, salted and canned meat, fish and poultry
- Ham, bacon, hot dogs and luncheon meats
- Regular, hard and processed cheese and regular peanut butter
- Salted snack foods such as crackers, pretzels, chips and popcorn
- Frozen prepared meals, unless labeled low-sodium
- Canned and dried soups, broths and bouillon, unless labeled sodium-free or low-sodium
- Canned vegetables, unless labeled sodium-free or low-sodium
- French fries, pizza, tacos and other fast foods
- Pickles, olives, ketchup and other condiments, especially soy sauce, unless labeled sodium-free or low-sodium
Allow your taste buds to adjust to the wonderful flavors of the real food without the salt!
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.