If you are following a low sodium diet and seeking low sodium foods, recipes or meals, then please use the links above. If you are new to low sodium dieting, please continue reading...

What is a low sodium diet?

Also known as low salt diet, low sodium diet means for an average person consuming less than 2,300 mgs (milligrams) of sodium per day. This amount almost corresponds to a teaspoon of salt [1]. An average person (in the U.S.) consumes over five teaspoons of salt per day.

Why is it important?

We get most of our sodium via salt (sodium chloride). Both sodium and chlorine are harmful to human body if taken in excessive amounts. High sodium intake can cause your body to retain excess fluid and elevate arterial pressure. There is increasing clinical evidence that sodium, rather than simply elevating arterial pressure, has a far more complex role in hypertension [2].

Salt also aggravates various health problems besides hypertension and pre-hypertension such as congestive heart failure, diabetic retinitis, severe premenstrual syndrome, vertigo attacks of Meniere's disorder and calcium kidney/bladder stones [3].

For instance extra sodium causes kidney (calcium) stone patients to lose more calcium in urine putting them at risk for developing another stone. In the case of Meniere's, inner ear fluid (endolymph) needs to have balanced concentration of sodium, potassium, chloride and other electrolytes. Consumption of too much salt and sugar destabilizes the balance [4].

The other salt ion, chloride, has significant effect on blood pressure and takes longer to excrete than alkaline and other organic sodium compounds.

Should a healthy person follow a low sodium diet?

Being on a low sodium diet is nothing more than eating healthy, fresh foods while watching your salt intake. If your health is in great condition, avoiding foods high in sodium, fat, simple sugars and cholesterol should suffice. Doing so will help your heart continue working smoothly!

How low is too low?

Sodium is an essential element for proper functioning of your body. Please stay within 1,500 and 2,300 mgs a day unless your doctor advises otherwise.

What is low sodium food?

According to the Food Standards Code, sodium level in a low sodium food must be less than 120 mgs per 100 grams. It should be preferably fresh, unprocessed! Most fresh foods are naturally low in sodium. Processed and packaged foods are usually high in sodium as salt is used to add taste and preserve them for a long time.

Which foods have low sodium content?

Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish and unprocessed grains are low sodium. Other examples are black pepper, garlic, dill, parsley, oregano, vinegar, cumin, dried beans, lentils, rice, pasta, noodles, honey, skim milk, yogurt, fresh beef, pork, lamb, shrimp, egg, hot cereals, soy milk, tea and coffee.

Which foods have too much sodium?

Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, bouillon cubes, processed meats (processed bacon, sausage and ham), canned soups, canned vegetables, most fast foods, potato chips, frozen meals and cured meats. In general, processed, packaged, canned and frozen foods tend to have higher amount of sodium. However, you can find a list for low sodium versions of these normally high sodium products at this site as well as grocers and supermarkets.

How can I find out sodium content of a food product?

Most food products have nutrition facts also known as nutrition charts on their packages. On nutrition charts there is a row for sodium content. You should note serving size as well as sodium amount (per serving) for accurate calculation of your sodium consumption. For instance, if you consume three serving sizes then the amount of sodium you consume is also triple of the sodium amount shown on the nutrition chart.

Are there any diet tricks and tips that would help me follow a low sodium diet easily?

There are numerous ways to cut down your salt intake. In fact, we have an entire page only on low sodium diet tips. We also have a section dedicated to low sodium recipes for those who cook their own meals and another section dedicated to low sodium meals for those who prefer eating out. You can find the links to these sections/pages at the header of this page above.

Can I lose weight with low sodium diet?

The short answer is yes but you should not follow a low sodium diet to lose weight. Please do not reduce your sodium intake to unhealthy levels in order to lose weight. As stated before, sodium causes you to retain more water. Lower sodium intake means less retained water, hence less weight! However the primary purpose of following a low sodium diet is to stay healthy by eating fresh, non-processed foods and cooking your own meals. If you lose some unwanted weight as a result of adopting healthier eating habits, that is a great bonus!

Should I lower my sodium intake during pregnancy?

Pregnant women are more likely to retain water, swell up on hands and feet. Lowering sodium intake can help with the swelling. Several medical papers claim that a sodium-restricted diet to prevent or to treat mild pregnancy-induced hypertension is NOT effective [5]. So avoid the salt shaker, drink plenty of water, take folic acid and eat your veggies and fruits, you will be fine during your pregnancy. No need for extra precautions!

Should my kids be on a low sodium diet?

The short answer is "no, especially if they are eating their home-made meals!". Unfortunately there is one issue that needs mothers' serious attention: Many kids snacks, even sweet cookies and party mixes, have high amount of sodium per serving. Besides kids do not care about serving sizes! They can easily consume their daily intake of sodium with a small pack of cookies.

Last year Children's gazette published by Miami Children's Hospital wrote that "the incidence of kidney stones in children has been increasing steadily in America over the last decade". The reason is tied to excess salt contained in many foods that children love such as French fries, cheeseburgers and potato chips. In addition, parents may not be aware that many convenient foods such as lunch meats, packaged meals, canned soups and sports drinks contain high levels of hidden salts.

How about salt substitutes?

We suggest eating natural, fresh foods. Please avoid any food substitutes. Some salt substitutes may not include sodium chloride but may still include other kinds of sodium-based compounds. Please remember salt is salt regardless of where it comes from! Use basic spices instead.

Do you have questions or comments?

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  1. "How to follow a low sodium diet" published by Heart Failure Society of America
  2. The Role of Sodium in Hypertension is more Complex Than Simply Elevating Arterial Pressure. The research article can be found on Medscape
  3. "Salt of sodium" posted by SaltMatters.org
  4. VEDA publication S-17: Dietary Considerations with Endolymphatic Hydrops, Meniere's disease, and Vestibular Migraine
  5. Low sodium diet and pregnancy-induced hypertension: a multi-centre randomized controlled trial. This paper can be viewed at NIH NCBI website