A low sodium diet is prescribed for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, people aged 51 years and older – and for Africans/African Americans because genetically we are more prone to developing hypertension and type 2 diabetes…
The human body needs a small amount of sodium to maintain a balance of body fluids, keep muscles and nerves running smoothly and help certain organs work properly.
However, most people eat too much sodium in their diets. Many people all over the world eat too much of it – and they may not even know it. Most people consume about 3,300mg of sodium daily.
You should reduce your intake to around 1500 mg per day if you are in any of the following population groups who have been shown to be more susceptible to sodium’s blood pressure-raising effects:
- People with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease
- People ages 51 and older…
If you are African and already overweight, a low sodium diet is probably mandatory. And if you are African with chronic kidney disease, CKD, you should also look into adopting a low potassium diet
Learning about the sodium in foods and new ways to prepare foods will help you to achieve your goal for a low sodium diet.
And, if you follow these tips for reducing the amount of sodium you are consuming, your “taste” for salt will gradually decrease over time – so eventually, you may not even miss it!
These guidelines are based on a report published by the US government for Americans, but should apply for Africans since we are getting more and more Westernized in our diets and cooking.
- For those who use packaged foods from the supermarket, or fast food, read the Nutrition Facts Label to see how much sodium is in the foods you are considering. You should consume less than 100% of the Daily Value or less than 2400 mg of sodium each day. Check the label for lower sodium choices and compare sodium in different brands of foods — like frozen meals, packaged soups, breads, dressings/sauces, and snack foods — and choose those with lower sodium.
- Prepare your own food when you can. Don’t salt foods before or during cooking, and limit salt shaker use at the table.
- Add Flavor Without Adding Sodium. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to your foods. Try rosemary, oregano, basil, curry powder, cayenne pepper, ginger, fresh garlic or garlic powder (not garlic salt), black or red pepper, vinegar or lemon juice, and no-salt seasoning blends.
- Get fresh when you can. Buy fresh or frozen (not processed) poultry, pork and lean meat rather than canned, smoked or processed meats like luncheon meats, sausages and corned beef. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium.
Also, check the package on fresh meat and poultry to see if salt water or saline has been added.
- Watch your veggies. Buy fresh, frozen (without sauce), or low sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables.
- Give sodium the “rinse.” Rinse sodium-containing canned foods, such as tuna, vegetables, and beans before using. This removes some of the sodium.
- Examine your dairy products. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy beverages (often called soymilk) in place of processed cheese products and spreads, which are higher in sodium.
- “Unsalt” your snacks. Choose unsalted nuts and seeds, and snack products such as chips and pretzels, that are marked “low sodium” or “no-salt-added” – or have a carrot or celery stick instead.
- Consider your condiments. Sodium in soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, and seasoning packets can add up. Choose lite or reduced sodium soy sauce and no-salt-added ketchup, add oil and vinegar to a salad rather than bottled salad dressings, and use only a small amount of seasoning from flavoring packets instead of the entire packet.
- Speak up at restaurants. Ask to see the nutrition information in restaurants and choose a lower-sodium option. Ask for your meal to be prepared without salt and request that sauces and salad dressings be served “on the side,” then use less of them. You can also reduce your portion size – less food means less sodium!
For example, ask the server to put half of your meal in a takeout container before it comes to your table or split an entrée with a dinner companion.
Food Choices Matter!
More than 40% of the sodium you consume comes from the following 10 types of foods:
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats (such as deli or packaged ham or turkey)
- Fresh and processed poultry
- Sandwiches (such as hot dogs, hamburgers and submarine sandwiches)
- Cheese (natural and processed)
- Mixed pasta dishes (such as lasagna, spaghetti with meat sauce, and pasta salad)
- Mixed meat dishes (such as meat loaf with tomato sauce, beef stew, and chili)
- Snacks (such as chips, pretzels, popcorn, and crackers)
But remember, the sodium content can vary significantly within food categories – so use the Nutrition Facts Label to compare the amount of sodium in different products.
Make sure the serving sizes are similar, and select products with the lowest sodium.
Eat Foods High in Potassium for A Low sodium Diet
Research shows that eating foods high in potassium can lower blood pressure by reducing the adverse effects of sodium on blood pressure.
Examples of foods rich in potassium include potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, apricots, bananas, beans, low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurt, and juices (prune, carrot, tomato and orange).