Reduced Sodium Diet

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.

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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.

Commercial products

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.

Medications

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

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

Salt substitutes

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
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • orange sections 1/2 cup
  • whole wheat toast 1 slice
  • cereal 3/4 cup
  • unsalted margarine 2 tsp
  • jelly 2 tsp
  • mskim milk 1 cup
  • coffee
  • creamer/sugar 1 tsp
  • Snack:unsalted soft pretzel 1 apple juice

*Low Sodium
  • chicken noodle soup* 1/2 cup
  • lean hamburger 3 oz
  • hamburger bun 1
  • sliced tomato 2 oz
  • lettuce
  • mayonnaise 1 tsp
  • unsalted crackers 3
  • vanilla wafers 3
  • canned peaches 1/2 cup
  • skim milk 1/2 cup
  • coffee
  • creamer/sugar 1 tsp
  • baked chicken breast 3 oz
  • baked potato 1 med
  • green beans 1/2 cup
  • tossed salad
  • diet Italian dressing 1 Tb
  • mayonnaise 1 tsp
  • whole wheat bread 1 slice
  • unsalted margarine 2 tsp
  • angel food cake 1 slice
  • strawberries 1/2 cup
  • skim milk 1 cup
  • coffee
  • creamer/sugar 1 tsp
This sample diet provides the following:
Calories 2,090 Fat 55 gm
Protein 105 g Sodium 1,850 mg
Carbohydrates 300 g Potassium 4,450 mg
Sample Menu 4g
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • grapefruit 1/2
  • cereal 3/4 cup
  • banana 1/2
  • whole wheat toast 2 slices
  • margarine 2 tsp
  • jelly or jam 1 Tb
  • 2% milk 1 cup
  • coffee/tea
  • vegetable soup 1 cup
  • lean hamburger 2 oz
  • Swiss cheese 1 oz
  • hamburger bun 1
  • sliced tomato 2 oz
  • lettuce
  • fresh fruit salad 1/2 cup
  • oatmeal cookie 1
  • 2% milk 1 cup
  • low sodium tomato juice 1/2 cup
  • broiled chicken breast 3 oz
  • broccoli spears 2
  • hard dinner roll 1
  • margarine 2 tsp
  • lettuce
  • fresh fruit salad 1/2 cup
  • carrot/raisin salad 1/2 cup
  • frozen strawberry yogurt 1/2 cup
  • 2% milk 1 cup
  • coffee/tea
This sample diet provides the following:
Calories 2,170 Fat 69 gm
Protein 119 g Sodium 4,040 mg
Carbohydrates 294 g Potassium 3,950 mg
Diet Differences
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
Choose Avoid
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
Seasoning with onion, garlic, lemon, vinegar, black pepper, and parsley will improve the flavor of many kinds of food. Use fruit, fruit juices, or sweet and sour sauce for gourmet dishes. Use fresh or dried herbs and other spices to flavor foods. Remember that two teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs equal 1/2 of the dried form. Always store dried herbs and spices in a cool, dry place in airtight containers. When flavoring, start with small amounts (1/4 tsp for four servings) and increase to taste. Don't use more than three herbs or spices in one dish. Certain herbs and spices blend better with some foods than others, so experiment and use the suggestions below as a guide.
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

References

  1. Strazzullo P, Leclercq C. Sodium. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(2):188. doi:10.3945/AN.113.005215
  2. 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/
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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

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