You may have been told by your healthcare provider to reduce the sodium in your diet to help prevent or manage high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke. Here are some questions and answers to help explain sodium, your health and how to reduce sodium in your diet.
Salt or Sodium: What is the Difference?
Sodium is a mineral that can be found in many foods that our body uses for nerve and muscle functions. Table salt is made from two minerals combined: sodium and chloride. Your healthcare provider may use the terms sodium and salt interchangeably. Your goal is to reduce the amount of sodium from foods and table salt in your diet.
How Does Sodium Impact My Health?
Your body does need some sodium. Sodium plays a key role in nerve and muscle function. Your kidneys regulate your sodium and fluid balance in your body. You may experience swelling, puffiness, or fluid weight gain when you eat too much sodium and retain water.
This retained water gets pulled into your blood vessels increasing the amount of blood/fluid in your blood vessels, which is what increases your blood pressure. Decreasing sodium intake can help with blood pressure management by allowing your body to balance the water properly.
How Much Sodium Should I Have In One Day?
The average American eats more the 3400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. The American Heart Association recommends 1500-2300mg per day. Those with high blood pressure can benefit from limiting sodium intake to 1500mg or less.
Quick Tips to Decrease Sodium:
- Avoid adding table salt to foods
- Remove salt shaker from table
- Flavor foods with herbs, spices, or salt free seasonings
- Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned “with no salt added” vegetables
- Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types
- Remove salt from a recipe whenever possible
Limit These Salty Foods:
- Cold Cuts and Cured meats
- Burritos and Tacos
- Cheeses and Buttermilk
- Canned Vegetables; may be rinsed to reduce the salt content
- Frozen Dinners
- Snack foods such as chips, pretzels and microwave popcorn
- Condiments and Sauces like ketchup, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, mustard, relish
- Sea Salt; regardless of the source of salt, is a significant source of sodium
Limiting your sodium intake can help keep your heart and kidneys healthy. Your taste for salt is acquired, so you can learn to enjoy less. Decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. After a few weeks of cutting back on salt, you won’t miss it, and some foods may even taste too salty.
If you still have questions, ask your healthcare provider or a dietitian. You can also find more information at the American Heart Association website – heart.org.