Sodium is an essential mineral that performs vital functions in the body. Sodium plays a major role in fluid balance in the body.1 Sodium balance is necessary because excess sodium leads to extra water retention in the body, which may be problematic for those with high blood pressure and heart disease.
In such patients, sodium intake should be reduced to 4g per day.2 In severe cases, the diet is strict, limiting sodium to only 2g per day.
Nutrition and Special Considerations
Table salt is commonly used in daily diet. Table salt is sodium chloride, which means half of the table salt is sodium. Its use should be limited.
Sodium in food
Sodium occurs naturally in many foods and some contain more sodium than others. Read labels before purchasing any food. The information on labels is given in milligrams, note: 1g = 1000 mg.
Choose foods according to the restricted daily intake, i.e., 2g or 4g.
Some commercial products also contain an adequate amount of sodium in them. Baking soda, monosodium glutamate (MSG), brine, disodium phosphate, baking powder, and sodium benzoate all contain sodium, so read labels before purchasing and using these.
Some commonly used medications include sodium, such as antacids, cough syrups, and laxatives. Avoid using them altogether or consult a physician before taking them.
Fast food contains a high number of seasonings that contain sodium. If you want to eat fast food, ask them to use less salt in your meal preparation.3
Do not choose any alternatives to sodium without the advice of a nutritionist or physician. Some alternatives can be dangerous and may disturb the body’s electrolyte balance.
Water softeners: Avoid drinking water from homemade or commercial water softeners. When purchasing bottled water, check the label for sodium content.
Benefits of a Low-sodium Diet
Low-sodium diets are recommended for patients with high blood pressure, heart, and kidney disease.
Helps reduce blood pressure
Studies have shown that a low-sodium diet can help reduce blood pressure. Low-sodium diets prevent the accumulation of excess water and keeps blood pressure under control. Moreover, it is helpful for heart patients.4
Alleviates cancer risk
High-salt diets are linked with certain cancers, including stomach cancer. Studies show that taking 5g of extra salt per day increases the chances of stomach cancer by 12%.5
|Sample Menu 2g|
|This sample diet provides the following:|
|Protein||105 g||Sodium||1,850 mg|
|Carbohydrates||300 g||Potassium||4,450 mg|
|Sample Menu 4g|
|This sample diet provides the following:|
|Protein||119 g||Sodium||4,040 mg|
|Carbohydrates||294 g||Potassium||3,950 mg|
|4 Gram Sodium Diet||2 Gram Sodium Diet|
|Use 1/2 teaspoon of table salt per day in cooking and food preparation. Do not add salt at the table.||Use no table salt in cooking or food preparation. Do not add salt at the table.|
|Limit prepared salad dressings and condiments such as mustard or ketchup to 3 tablespoons per day.||Do not use commercially prepared salad dressings or condiments such as mustard or catsup.|
|Do not eat Bleu, Roquefort, Stilton, or Gorgonzola cheeses. Limit other natural or aged cheeses to 2 oz. per day.||Do not eat any natural or aged cheeses.|
|Limit buttermilk to 8 oz. per week.||Do not drink buttermilk.|
|Limit regular peanut butter to 3 teaspoons per week.||Do not eat regular peanut butter.|
|Choosing Foods for a Reduced Sodium Diet|
|Bread: English muffin, white, wheat, pumpernickel, other types of regular or unsalted bread and rolls||sweet rolls, bread or rolls with salted tops, packaged cracker or bread crumb coatings, packaged stuffing mixes, biscuits, cornbread|
|Crackers and snack foods: all unsalted crackers and snack foods, unsalted peanut butter||salted crackers and snack items, regular peanut butter, party spreads, and dips|
|Pasta, rice, and potatoes: all types of pasta such as macaroni, spaghetti, rigatoni, ziti, potatoes, rice||macaroni and cheese mix, seasoned rice, noodle, and spaghetti mixes, canned spaghetti, frozen lasagna, macaroni and cheese, rice and pasta dishes, instant potatoes, seasoned potato mixes|
|Dried beans and peas: pinto beans, white northern beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, lentils, split peas, etc.||any beans or peas prepared with ham, bacon, salt pork, or bacon grease, all canned beans|
|Meats and alternatives: fresh or frozen meat, poultry, and fish, low-sodium canned tuna and salmon, eggs||salted, smoked, canned, spiced, and pickled meats, poultry and fish, bacon, ham, sausage; scrapple, regular canned tuna or salmon, cold cuts, luncheon meats, hot dogs, pre-breaded frozen meats, fish, and poultry, TV dinners, meat pies, kosher meats|
|Fruits and vegetables: fresh, frozen, or low-sodium canned vegetables or vegetable juices, low sodium tomato paste and sauce, fresh, canned, or frozen fruit and juices||regular canned vegetables and vegetable juices, regular tomato sauce and tomato paste, olives, pickles, relish, sauerkraut or vegetables packed in brine, frozen vegetables in butter or sauces, crystallized and glazed fruit, maraschino cherries, fruit dried with sodium sulfite|
|Dairy products: milk, cream, sour cream, non-dairy creamer, yogurt, low-sodium cottage cheese, low sodium cheese||buttermilk, Dutch-processed chocolate milk, processed cheese slices and spreads, regular cheese, cottage cheese|
|Fats and oils: margarine, regular butter, or mayonnaise limited to 4 teaspoons per day; unsalted butter, margarine, cooking oils, or shortenings, salt-free gravies, cream sauces, and salad dressings||bacon grease, salt pork, commercially prepared sauces, gravies, and salad dressings|
|Soups: salt-free soups and low-sodium bouillon cubes||regular commercially canned or prepared soups, stews, broths, or bouillon, packaged and frozen soups|
|Desserts: gelatin, sherbet, fruit ices, pudding and ice cream as part of milk allowance, angel food cake, salt-free baked goods, sugar, honey, jam, jelly, marmalade, syrup||regular commercially prepared and packaged baked goods, chocolate candy|
|Beverages: coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks that do not contain sodium||softened water, carbonated beverages with sodium or salt added, check with a physician about alcoholic beverages|
|Condiments: fresh and dried herbs, lemon juice, low-sodium mustard, vinegar, Tabasco sauce, low-sodium or no-salt-added ketchup, extracts (almond, lemon, vanilla), baking chocolate and cocoa, seasoning blends that do not contain salt||table salt, lite salt, bouillon cubes, meat extract, Worcestershire sauce, tartar sauce, ketchup, chili sauce, cooking wines, onion salt, prepared mustard, garlic salt, meat flavorings, meat tenderizers, steak and barbecue sauce, seasoned salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), Dutch-processed cocoa|
|Flavoring Food without Salt|
|Vegetables||Meats, Poultry, Fish, and Eggs|
|Asparagus:||lemon, chives||Beef:||bay leaf, dry mustard, nutmeg (in meatloaf), sage, dill, green pepper, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes|
|Broccoli:||Lemon, oregano, rosemary||Veal:||bay leaf, curry, ginger, apricot or currant jelly, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, tarragon, dry mustard|
|Carrots:||Lemon, orange, nutmeg, mint, basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, mace, anise, dry mustard||Pork:||sage, caraway, nutmeg, apples, applesauce, cranberry sauce, tarragon, dry mustard|
|Corn:||Green pepper, fresh tomatoes, paprika, hot pepper sauce||Lamb:||Curry, mint, dill, sage|
|Peas:||mint, dill, fresh mushrooms, basil, marjoram, savory||Poultry||sage, tarragon, fresh mushrooms, poultry seasoning, curry, peach, apricot, pineapple, lemon, hot pepper sauce, bay leaf|
|Potatoes:||Mace, chives, rosemary, dill||Fish & Eggs:||dill, basil, tarragon, curry, dry mustard, paprika, cayenne, thyme, green pepper, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, hot pepper sauce, chives, and Bay leaf adds flavor to fish chowders|
|Sweet Potatoes:||Mace, ginger, basil, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, oregano, lemon, orange|
|Spinach:||nutmeg, oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, allspice, mace, lemon|
|Tomatoes:||basil, oregano, thyme, sugar, dill, marjoram, vinegar|
- Strazzullo P, Leclercq C. Sodium. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(2):188. doi:10.3945/AN.113.005215
- Strom BL, Yaktine AL, Oria M, et al. Sodium Intake and Health Outcomes. Published online August 27, 2013. Accessed September 2, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK201520/
- Perrin G, Korb-Savoldelli V, Karras A, Danchin N, Durieux P, Sabatier B. Cardiovascular risk associated with high sodium-containing drugs: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2017;12(7). doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0180634
- He FJ, Li J, Macgregor GA. Effect of longer-term modest salt reduction on blood pressure. Cochrane database Syst Rev. 2013;2013(4). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004937.PUB2
- Fang X, Wei J, He X, et al. Landscape of dietary factors associated with risk of gastric cancer: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Eur J Cancer. 2015;51(18):2820-2832. doi:10.1016/J.EJCA.2015.09.010