What is, why recommended, benefits and food options

Overview

Sodium is a vital mineral that helps your body with several crucial processes. It is naturally present in foods such as vegetables and eggs and is an important part of our daily table salt (sodium chloride).

Despite being essential for health, you may occasionally need to restrict salt in your diet depending on your health condition. For example, individuals with heart failure, high blood pressure, and kidney disease are advised to follow a low-sodium diet.

This article discusses the benefits, risks, foods to eat and avoid, and why some people should follow a low-sodium diet.

What is a Low Sodium Diet?

Sodium is a crucial mineral that aids in several vital body processes, such as fluid balance, cellular activity, electrolyte balance and blood pressure maintenance. Our kidneys closely monitor the levels of this mineral as it is essential to life and this mineral affects the concentration (osmolarity) of physiological fluids.

Most things we eat contain sodium, some foods have much smaller amounts. Fresh fruits and other plant-based foods tend to be lower in sodium than animal foods such as meat and dairy products. The processed and packaged items, such as French fries, frozen meals and fast food, contain the highest concentrations of sodium because salt is added during processing to improve the taste.

Adding salt to food during cooking and seasoning contributes significantly to sodium intake. High-sodium meals and drinks are an absolute no-no to a low-sodium diet. Health care professionals often recommend low-sodium diets to treat conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease. While there are exceptions, daily sodium intake is typically limited to no more than a few grams (2,000-3,000 mg). For reference, 2,300 mg of sodium are present in a teaspoon of salt.

To keep salt intake below the recommended range on a low-sodium diet, items high in sodium should be reduced or avoided altogether.

A low-sodium diet is commonly used in hospital settings. According to one study, sodium restriction may help regulate or improve several medical conditions, such as:

Kidney disease

Kidney disease adversely affects kidney function and causes chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure. When the kidneys are damaged, they cannot efficiently rid the body of excess fluid or sodium. If sodium and fluid levels get too high, pressure in the blood builds, which can cause further damage to already compromised kidneys.

high bloodpressure

High blood pressure is a risk factor for several health problems, including serious ones such as stroke and heart disease. A low-sodium diet may be associated with elevated blood pressure. Many studies have shown that reducing salt intake can help lower high blood pressure in people with elevated levels.

heart and vascular disease

Doctors usually recommend a low-sodium diet for people with heart disease, including heart failure. Kidney function decreases when the heart is affected, leading to sodium and water retention. Excess salt can cause fluid buildup in people with heart failure and lead to dangerous complications, such as shortness of breath.

What are the benefits of a low-sodium diet?

Following a low-sodium diet can benefit health in several ways, including:

Lower blood pressure

As mentioned above, a low-sodium diet can help lower blood pressure. Research has shown that transitioning to a low-sodium diet can lead to small but significant changes in blood pressure, especially in individuals with elevated blood pressure.

Help reduce the risk of cancer

High-salt diets may be linked to certain types of cancer, including that of the stomach. Studies have shown that diets high in salt can damage the mucosal lining of the stomach and increase inflammation and the growth of H. Pylori bacteria, which can increase the risk of stomach cancer.

On the other hand, following a diet low in sodium in processed foods and rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of stomach cancer.

Improve nutritional quality

Many unhealthy foods are high in sodium. Fast food, frozen meals and packaged items contain large amounts of salt and are also high in unhealthy fats and calories. Frequent consumption of these foods may be linked to health problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. These high-salt foods are off limits on a low-sodium diet, which can help improve a person’s overall nutritional quality.

What are the excellent low-sodium food options?

If one wants to follow a low-sodium diet, it is essential to choose foods that are naturally low in sodium or contain limited amounts of added salt.

The following food list is low sodium and safe to eat on a low sodium diet:

  • Add fresh and frozen veggies, such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers.
  • Include grains and beans such as dried beans, brown rice, farro, quinoa, and whole-wheat pasta in your meal.
  • Eat fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, including berries, apples, bananas, and pears.
  • Consume fresh or frozen meat and poultry such as chicken, turkey or pork.
  • Eat fresh or frozen fish such as cod, sea bass and tuna.
  • Include starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and parsnips.
  • Healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, and avocado oil.
  • Drink low-sodium soups such as low-sodium canned or homemade soups.
  • Eat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, unsalted butter, and low-sodium cheeses.
  • Enjoy breads and pastries such as whole-wheat bread, low-sodium tortillas, and unsalted crackers.
  • Low-sodium condiments include vinegar, mayonnaise, low-sodium salad dressing, low-sodium sauces, and low-sodium drinks include tea, coffee, low-sodium vegetable juice and water.
  • Eat unsalted nuts, such as pumpkin seeds, almonds and peanuts.
  • Enjoy low-sodium snacks like unsalted pretzels, popcorn, and tortilla chips.
  • Add low-sodium seasonings such as garlic powder, salt-free blends, herbs and spices to your meal.
  • Eggs can also be added.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, low sodium diets can help improve high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and overall diet quality. If you are on a low-sodium diet, choose fresh and avoid salty foods. Still, too little sodium can have adverse health effects and this diet is unnecessary for most people. But how do you know what’s best? Talk to an expert is the correct answer.

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