Sodium (Na) is an essential nutrient that is commonly found in table salt. Sodium helps maintain normal cellular homeostasis, electrolyte balance, and blood pressure and regulates fluid balance. But too much of it can cause hypertension, altered kidney function, arterial stiffness, and stroke and damage brain function. That’s why the WHO highly recommends a low-sodium diet. If you are thinking that cutting out table salt from your diet is the answer, you are wrong.
What Happens When You Consume Too Much Sodium/Salt?
When you consume too much sodium, the fluid balance in your body gets disrupted. The high sodium content pulls in water from the bloodstream to your blood vessels. And that increases blood volume, causing high blood pressure.
Scientists have found that high blood pressure or hypertension is directly proportional to the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Too much sodium can cause water retention in the body and lead to chronic renal (kidney) failure by increasing filtration fraction and glomerular (kidney filter) pressure.
Consuming too much salt can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, leptin resistance, fatty liver, and metabolic disorders.
Scientists have found that consuming high-sodium foods may decrease regional cerebral blood flow and reduce retention of spatial memory in mice.
How Much Sodium Should You Consume?
The American Heart Association recommends consuming about 1500 mg – 2300 mg “iodized” salt per day.
But most of us consume about 3400 mg sodium per day! This is way too much than the recommended amount.
But isn’t it perplexing that even after consuming less salt, the sodium levels in your blood are so high?
That’s because there are many other sources of salt/sodium in your diet. Take a look at the following basic guidelines to get a glimpse of salty foods that may not taste salty at all!
Guidelines To Limit Sodium Intake
- Avoid using too much salt in your food.
- Do not add extra salt from the salt shaker.
- When using soy sauce for cooking or as salad dressing, avoid adding salt to your food.
- Avoid using lime salt, onion salt, garlic salt, broth cubes, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, barbeque sauce, ketchup, noodle tastemaker, and store-bought teriyaki sauce.
- Always use fresh ingredients to cook your food.
- Use lime, lemon, or orange as a meat tenderizer.
- Read the labels of canned or packaged foods. Look at the sodium content per serving size. Any number below 140 mg or less per serving is good to go in your shopping bag.
- Avoid consuming ready-to-eat soups.
- Look for sodium content in seasoning mixes, pasta seasonings, and spices.
- Do not use salt substitutes.
- Be aware of the “salty six” – bread and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cut and cured meats, soup, and burritos and tacos.
Low-Sodium Diet – What And How Much To Eat
Vegetables And Fruits
5 servings of 4-5 different types of vegetables per day
3 servings of 3 different fruits per day
½ cup of chopped fruit per serving
1 chopped, frozen, or cooked vegetable per serving
You may consume 1 serving of low-sodium tomato sauce.
A serving of protein with every meal
You may consume 2-3 ounces of fish, shrimp, or chicken per day.
You may consume ½ cup of low-sodium canned fish.
You may consume 1 egg.
½ cup cooked legumes per day
1-2 servings of dairy per day
1 cup milk per day
2-3 oz low-sodium cheese per day
½ cup cottage cheese per day
1 cup soy milk
Grains And Breads
1 slice of low-sodium bread per day
1 low-sodium bagel per day
½ cup rice per day
1 serving of low-sodium crackers per day
Fats, Oils, And Condiments
Herbs and spices
Rice bran oil, olive oil, and avocado oil
Low-sodium salad dressing
Snacks And Sweets
½ cup low-sodium potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, and other snacks
2.5 oz unsalted nuts
1 tablespoon jelly
8-10 jelly beans
What To Choose While Eating At A Restaurant
Here’s what you’ve got to choose while eating at a restaurant:
- Avoid soups or broths.
- Avoid bread baskets.
- Have fresh fruits or a glass of freshly pressed fruit juice.
- Consume garden-fresh salads.
- Avoid consuming kimchi, pickled veggies, and sauerkraut.
- Request the chef to make “light-dressing” instead of using a concoction of high-sodium sauces.
- Choose broiled, grilled, or roasted poultry, fish, and shellfish.
- Request the chef to cook without garlic salt, lime salt, and onion salt.
- Avoid going to buffets.
- Avoid fast-food joints.
- Avoid consuming casseroles and one-pot dishes.
- Choose fresh fruits with ice cream or gelatin.
- Choose low-sodium cakes.
- When you are on a low-sodium diet, you also have to change your lifestyle. Here are a few lifestyle changes that you must make.
- Stick to your low-sodium diet plan.
- Avoid eating out as much as possible.
- Take your medicines regularly.
- Workout regularly with your doctor’s permission.
- Take less stress, practice yoga, and learn a new skill.
A low-sodium diet will help improve your health in innumerable ways. And you will start to experience the difference in just a few days.