What is a Low Sodium Diet?
More and more people are being recommended a "low sodium diet" by their doctor or dietitian but may not understand what that means or why they should adopt this diet. Healthcare providers are recommending low or lower sodium diets because they have been shown to help with several chronic health conditions that are common in the United States.
The average American consumes around 3,400 milligrams of salt each day. However, the daily recommended intake should be 2,300 milligrams per day for adults and 1,500 milligrams per day for those aged 51 or older. Consuming too much sodium can lead to a number of health problems if not addressed soon enough.
What is a Low Sodium Diet?
A low sodium diet is a diet that contains less than the average intake of table salt, also known as sodium chloride, in our food. Doctors typically recommend the low sodium diet to people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or are of older age.
The American Heart Association recommends that those who have hypertension or other heart conditions consume no more than 1500 milligrams per day and those with diabetes should limit their daily sodium intake as well.
If a person suffering from one of these conditions lowered their sodium intake to 1000 milligrams or less per day, then they could potentially see a dramatic improvement in their health.
Health Problems Caused by High Sodium Intake
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the following conditions can be linked to high sodium intake:
High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Stomach Cancer
Millions of Americans suffer from high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, involves the body's systolic readings being 140 or higher and/or diastolic reading of 90 or higher on at least two occasions.
Hypertension has become a major issue in American society primarily due to lack of exercise and unhealthy diet. High sodium intake is one major factor of the American diet that can be linked to hypertension.
Doctors around the world are in agreement that lowering sodium intake can help decrease blood pressure along with a healthy diet and exercise.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one chronic disease that Americans suffer from today. About 659,000 people die from heart disease per year in America which equals about 1 person every 36 seconds.
Cardiovascular disease is a chronic condition that can be developed from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. High sodium intake has been linked to both cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Low sodium diets are recommended by doctors and dietitians for most people with a heart condition, including heart failure.
Kidney disease is another disease where doctors will prescribe a low sodium diet. Kidney disease is a chronic condition that develops over time and can be caused by many factors.
Kidney disease typically stems from diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. A low sodium diet can help the kidneys function properly and lower hypertension.
Low sodium diets have been shown to help those with kidney disease manage the disease better, reduce the risk of heart problems, and lower blood pressure. The diet is also beneficial for people who have already suffered from renal failure because it will slow down the progression of the disease.
Doctors around the world recommend a low sodium diet to those who suffer from osteoporosis or weak bones. The condition is most common in women over 50 years old but men are also at risk for developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis occurs when the bones lose too much calcium which makes them weak and brittle. This diet is beneficial to those who suffer from osteoporosis because it will help slow down bone loss caused by high salt intake.
Sodium increases calcium excretion, which in turn makes the bones weaker. Calcium excretion also lowers bone mass density (BMD) which is a good indicator for osteoporotic fractures that will likely occur.
Amounts of Recommended Sodium Allowed Per Day (Based on Age)
The Institute of Medicine recommends the following daily sodium intake to the following:
- 1,000 milligrams (mg) for children aged 1 to 3
- 1,200 mg for children aged 4 to 8
- 1,500 mg for people aged 9 to 50
- 1,300 mg for adults aged 51 to 70
- 1,200 mg for seniors over 70 years of age
As you can see, the Institute of Medicine recommends less than half of what the average American is currently consuming on a daily basis.
Foods To Avoid on a Low Sodium Diet
If you’ve been advised to follow a low sodium diet, put the shaker of table salt away. Add less salt than what is called for in recipes. Start paying attention to the nutrition fact panels that appear on packaged foods. Check restaurant web sites to find out how much sodium menu items contain before going out to eat. The following foods may contain a lot of sodium:
- Restaurant food (fast food, take-out, or sit-down)
- Frozen dinners
- Salted foods
- Pickled foods
- Canned vegetables
- Chips, pretzels, or crackers
- Muffins, cakes, or cookies
- Soups or sauces
- Salad dressings, ketchup, or other condiments
- Soy, teriyaki, or fish sauce
Foods To Eat on a Low Sodium Diet
Fresh and frozen vegetables
Fresh and frozen fruit
Unseasoned fresh or frozen meat
Unseasoned fresh or frozen fish/seafood
Unseasoned fresh or frozen poultry
Unsalted nuts and seeds
Unsalted canned beans, lentils, or vegetables
Unsalted or reduced sodium soups, broths, or sauces
Unsalted or reduced sodium chips, pretzels or crackers
Rice or pasta
Fresh or dried herbs and spices
Vinegars, lemon, or lime juice
Health Benefits of a Low Sodium Diet
This diet is usually doctor recommended and has one primary goal. That goal is to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney disease or another chronic health condition.
Switching to this diet has been proven to positively affect someone who suffers from these conditions. A low sodium diet paired with consistent exercise can improve overall quality of life and can lower the risk of complications from hypertension.
Avoiding foods with too much added salt can be difficult, but it is possible.
Can Reduce Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association says that the average person should not eat more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and that the perfect amount of sodium intake per day would be around 1,500 mg. The AHA also says that eating less processed salty foods can drastically lower your daily sodium levels which can reduce blood pressure and even prevent hypertension from happening in the first place.
Can Help Decrease Risk of Cancer
A diet that is low in sodium can also help reduce your risk for stomach cancer! The American Institute for Cancer Research found strong evidence that a high sodium diet can increase the risk of cancer due to the high amounts of sodium thinning the lining of the stomach.
As you can see, this diet has a lot of health benefits for most people who is at risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.
Can Improve Quality of Overall Diet
Another important aspect of the diet is that it can improve the overall quality of your diet. Most Americans have a high sodium diet because they are eating foods with tons of added salt that have been highly processed or foods with a high shelf life. These kinds of high sodium foods are sold in the grocery store and even in most restaurants.
Eliminating these foods will not only lower your daily sodium levels but will also help you start eating ng fresher, all natural foods instead. Eating fresh, all-natural foods is important for overall health and life longevity.
For example, you can eat fresh vegetables instead of canned vegetables or you can prep your own food instead of resorting to convenience foods from a fast-food restaurant.
Can Lower Risk of Chronic Conditions
A diet that is low in sodium is a great way to lower the risk for many chronic conditions that millions of Americans suffer with today. Many doctors will prescribe some form of diet that involves lowering your sodium intake at the first sign of hypertension or cardiovascular disease (heart disease), which is the most fatal chronic condition that plagues Americans.
Using food as medicine is the best and most natural way to eliminate chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
Low Sodium Diet Difficulty
Switching to this diet can be very difficult if you are used to cooking in a certain way or if you are eating out at restaurants that serve food with a ton of seasoning and added salt.
Many Americans also rely on fast food for a quick breakfast or lunch throughout the day, but many of the foods served at fast food restaurants are high in sodium and trans fats, which can lead to health decline, obesity, and chronic conditions.
ModifyHealth can help make the transition to a doctor-recommended low sodium diet as easy and seamless as possible.
Try Low Sodium Diet Meal Delivery
The easiest way to follow this kind of diet is by subscribing to a low sodium meal plan from ModifyHealth. We provide fully prepared, low sodium meals that can be delivered to your front door with free shipping.
Using a low sodium meal delivery service can make adopting a low sodium diet easier and can have long lasting positive impacts on your health. Our mission is to help people take control of their health by using food as medicine.
Are you ready to take back control of your health?