Food With Low Sodium

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Food With Low Sodium is a list of the lowest amount of sodium in foods. It contains food from all categories, so it’s ideal for anyone wanting to eat less sodium. We’ll also be updating this list on a regular basis so we encourage you to bookmark it and visit us often. If you have high blood pressure and are following a low-sodium diet, or just interested in finding out which foods have low sodium content, then this list is for you.

Low-Sodium Diet: Benefits, Food Lists, Risks and More

Sodium is an important mineral that performs many essential functions in your body.

It’s found naturally in foods like eggs and vegetables and is also a main component of table salt (sodium chloride).

Though it’s vital to health, dietary sodium is sometimes limited under certain circumstances.

For example, a low-sodium diet is commonly prescribed to people with certain medical conditions, including heart failure, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

This article explains why a low-sodium diet is necessary for some people and reviews benefits, risks and foods to avoid and eat.

What Is a Low-Sodium Diet?

Sodium is an essential mineral involved in many important bodily functions, including cellular function, fluid regulation, electrolyte balance and maintaining blood pressure

Because this mineral is vital to life, your kidneys tightly regulate its levels based on the concentration (osmolarity) of bodily fluids .

Sodium is found in most foods you eat — though whole foods like vegetables, fruits and poultry contain much lower amounts.

Plant-based foods like fresh produce generally have less sodium than animal-based foods, such as meat and dairy products.

Sodium is most concentrated in processed and packaged foods like chips, frozen dinners and fast food where salt is added during processing to enhance flavor.

Another major contributor to sodium intake is adding salt to food when preparing meals in your kitchen and as a seasoning before eating.

A low-sodium diet limits high-sodium foods and beverages.

Healthcare professions typically recommend these diets to treat conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Although there are variations, sodium intake is generally kept to less than 2–3 grams (2,000–3,000 mg) per day .

For reference, one teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium .

When following a low-sodium diet, foods high in sodium must be limited or completely avoided to keep your sodium intake under the recommended level.

SUMMARY

Healthcare professionals recommend low-sodium diets to treat certain medical conditions. Sodium levels are typically restricted to less than 2–3 grams (2,000–3,000 mg) per day.

Why Are Low-Sodium Diets Prescribed?

Low-sodium diets are some of the most commonly used diets in hospital settings.

This is because research shows that restricting sodium may help control or improve certain medical conditions.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease, such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) or kidney failure, negatively impacts kidney function.

When your kidneys are compromised, they’re unable to effectively remove excess sodium or fluid from your body.

If sodium and fluid levels become too high, pressure builds in your blood, which can cause further damage to already compromised kidneys .

For these reasons, The National Kidney Foundation recommends that all people with CKD restrict their sodium intake to less than 2 grams (2,000 mg) per day .

A review of 11 studies in people with CKD found that moderate sodium restriction significantly reduced blood pressure and protein in the urine (a marker of kidney damage)

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a risk factor for various conditions, including heart disease and stroke

A high-sodium diet has been linked to elevated blood pressure.

For example, a recent study in 766 people demonstrated that those with the highest urinary sodium excretion had the highest blood pressure levels.

Many studies have shown that reducing salt intake may help decrease high blood pressure in people with elevated levels.

A review of six studies in more than 3,000 people showed that salt restriction lowered blood pressure in adults — with the strongest impact observed in those with high blood pressure .

Salt-sensitivity of people with high blood pressure varies widely and certain subgroups — such as African Americans — tend to be more impacted by high-salt diets .

Nevertheless, low-sodium diets are commonly prescribed as a natural treatment for all people with high blood pressure.

Heart Disease

Low-sodium diets are commonly recommended to those with heart conditions, including heart failure.

When your heart is compromised, kidney function declines, which can lead to sodium and water retention .

Eating too much salt could cause fluid overload in people with heart failure and lead to dangerous complications, such as shortness of breath.

Regulatory agencies recommend that people with mild heart failure limit their sodium intake to 3,000 mg per day while those with moderate to severe heart failure should reduce their intake no more than 2,000 mg daily .

However, while many studies have shown that low-sodium diets benefit those with heart failure, others have noted that non-restrictive diets lead to better outcomes.

For example, a study in 833 people with heart failure found that a sodium-restricted diet with less than 2,500 mg per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of death or hospitalization than unrestricted-sodium diets with 2,500 mg or more per day .

SUMMARY

Low-sodium diets are commonly prescribed to people with kidney disease, heart disease or high blood pressure in order to manage symptoms and prevent complications.

Benefits of a Low-Sodium Diet

Following a low-sodium diet may benefit health in several ways.

May Reduce Blood Pressure

As stated above, a low-sodium diet may help decrease blood pressure.

Studies have shown that transitioning to a low-sodium diet can lead to small yet significant changes in blood pressure, especially in people with elevated levels.

A review of 34 studies demonstrated that a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks led to significant reductions in blood pressure in people with both high and normal levels .

In the participants with high blood pressure, the average reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure was 5.39 mmHg and 2.82 mmHg, respectively.

By comparison, people with normal levels noticed a 2.42 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) and 1.00 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of a reading) .

May Help Decrease Cancer Risk

High-salt diets have been linked to certain types of cancers, including of the stomach.

A review of 76 studies in more than 6,300,000 people found that for every five-gram increase of dietary salt per day — from high-salt processed foods — the risk of stomach cancer increased by 12%.

Research has shown that high-salt diets can damage the mucosal lining of your stomach and increase inflammation and the growth of H. Pylori bacteria — all of which may raise stomach cancer risk .

On the other hand, a diet low in high-sodium processed foods and rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stomach cancer .

May Improve Diet Quality

Many unhealthy foods are extremely high in sodium.

Fast food, packaged items and frozen meals are not only loaded with salt but also tend to be high in unhealthy fats and calories.

Frequent consumption of these foods has been linked to health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease .

On a low-sodium diet, these high-salt foods are off limits, which may improve your overall diet quality.

SUMMARY

Following a low-sodium diet may decrease blood pressure, lower your risk of stomach cancer and improve diet quality.

Foods to Avoid

The following foods are high in sodium and should be avoided on a low-sodium diet:

  • Fast food: Burgers, fries, chicken fingers, pizza, etc.
  • Salty snack foods: Salted pretzels, chips, salted nuts, salted crackers, etc.
  • Frozen dinners: Frozen meat dishes, frozen pizza, etc.
  • Processed meats: Bacon, sausage, lunch meats and hot dogs.
  • Salted, canned products: Vegetables, pastas, meats, fish, etc.
  • Salty soups: Canned soups and packaged soups.
  • Cheese and dairy: Cheese, cheese spreads, cottage cheese, buttermilk, salted butter and cheese sauce.
  • High-sodium baked goods: Salted rolls, salted bagels, croutons and crackers.
  • Baking mixes: High-sodium waffle, pancake or cake mixes.
  • Boxed meals: Macaroni and cheese, pasta meals, rice meals, etc.
  • High-sodium side dishes: Stuffing, boxed au gratin potatoes, hash browns and rice pilaf.
  • Sauces and condiments: Gravy, soy sauce, commercial tomato sauce, salsa and salad dressing.
  • Pickled vegetables: Pickles, olives and sauerkraut.
  • Certain drinks: Regular vegetable juice, juice blends and salty alcoholic beverages.
  • Seasonings: Salt and salt blends.

Though certain foods like vegetables and unprocessed meats naturally contain small amounts of sodium, it’s insignificant compared to the amount of sodium added to commercially prepared foods.

The best way to avoid high-sodium foods is to restrict salty snack foods, fast food and packaged meals.

SUMMARY

Processed meats, cheese, frozen meals, fast foods and salty condiments are just some of the foods that are highest in sodium and should be avoided on a low-sodium diet.

Low-Sodium Foods to Enjoy

If you follow a low-sodium diet, it’s important to choose foods that are naturally low in sodium or contain limited amounts of added salt.

The following foods are low in sodium and safe to eat on a low-sodium diet:

  • Fresh and frozen vegetables (without sauces): Greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, etc.
  • Fresh, frozen or dried fruits: Berries, apples, bananas, pears, etc.
  • Grains and beans: Dried beans, brown rice, farro, quinoa and whole wheat pasta.
  • Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and parsnips.
  • Fresh or frozen meat and poultry: Chicken, turkey, beef or pork.
  • Fresh or frozen fish: Cod, sea bass, tuna, etc.
  • Eggs: Whole eggs and egg whites.
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocado and avocado oil.
  • Low-sodium soups: Low-sodium canned or homemade soups.
  • Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, unsalted butter and low-sodium cheeses.
  • Bread and baked goods: Whole-wheat bread, low-sodium tortillas and unsalted crackers.
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, etc.
  • Low-sodium snack foods: Unsalted pretzels, unsalted popcorn and unsalted tortilla chips.
  • Low-sodium condiments: Vinegar, mayonnaise, low-sodium salad dressing and low-sodium sauces.
  • Low-sodium beverages: Tea, coffee, low-sodium vegetable juice and water.
  • Low-sodium seasonings: Garlic powder, no-salt blends, herbs and spices.

SUMMARY

Foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, most dairy products, eggs and unsalted nuts are naturally low in sodium.

Lower-Sodium Foods: Shopping List

A woman and child look at a shopping list while buying produce.

Most people eat much more sodium (salt) than they need. This can lead to health problems like high blood pressure. To lower the amount of sodium in your diet, follow these tips when you go food shopping:

  • Choose fresh instead of processed foods when you can
  • Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the amount of sodium — you can compare labels to find products with less sodium
  • Look for foods labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added”

Take the list below with you the next time you go food shopping to help you choose foods that are lower in sodium.

Vegetables and Fruits

Buy plenty of vegetables and fruits, like:

  • Any fresh fruits, like apples, oranges, or bananas
  • Any fresh vegetables, like spinach, carrots, or broccoli
  • Frozen vegetables without added butter or sauce
  • Canned vegetables that are low in sodium or have no salt added — you can rinse them off to remove some of the sodium
  • Low-sodium vegetable juice
  • Frozen, canned, or dried fruits with no added sugars

Whole Grains

Compare labels to find products with less sodium. Look for foods with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less for sodium. A DV of 20% or more is high. 

Here are some good options to try:

  • Whole grains like brown or wild rice, quinoa, or barley
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta and couscous — just don’t add salt to the water when you cook it
  • Whole-grain hot or cold breakfast cereals with no added sugars, like oatmeal or shredded wheat
  • Unsalted popcorn or low-sodium chips and pretzels
  • Whole-grain breads, bagels, English muffins, tortillas, and crackers

Proteins

Choose fresh or frozen seafood, poultry, and meats instead of processed options. Some meat, poultry, and seafood has added sodium. If the package has a Nutrition Facts label, look for 5% DV or less.

Choose options like:

  • Fresh or frozen fish or shellfish
  • Chicken or turkey breast without skin or marinade
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Dried beans, peas, and lentils — like black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Canned beans labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium” — rinse them off to remove some of the sodium
  • Eggs

Dairy

Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lactose-free dairy products, or fortified soy alternatives like:

  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt
  • Low-sodium or reduced-sodium cheese — be sure to check the label since cheese can be high in sodium
  • Soy milk or soy yogurt with added calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D

Dressings, Oils, and Condiments

When you cook, use ingredients that are low in sodium or have no sodium at all — for example:

  • Unsalted margarine and spreads (soft, tub, or liquid) with less saturated fat than butter
  • Vegetable oils (canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, or sunflower)
  • Low-sodium salad dressing — or oil and vinegar
  • Low-sodium or “no salt added” ketchup
  • Low-sodium salsa or picante sauce

Seasonings

Try these seasonings instead of salt to flavor your food:

  • Herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning blends
  • Chopped vegetables — like garlic, onions, and peppers
  • Lemon and lime juice
  • Ginger

Heart Failure and a Low-Sodium Diet: What to Know

 Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 10, 2020This video is from the WebMD Archive.

Sodium, a key mineral in salt, helps your body keep the right amount of fluid in your bloodstream. When you eat a lot of it, your blood vessels take in more water. That raises blood pressure. It also makes heart failure symptoms worse, like the fluid buildup, weight gain, bloating, and swelling that happen when your heart doesn’t pump as well as it should.

To help keep your condition under control, you need to be careful to get the right amount of sodium in your diet.

How Much Salt Should You Eat?

If you’re living with congestive heart failure, it’s best if you limit the sodium in your diet to less than 1,500 milligrams a day. That’s far less than the amount that most Americans eat — 3,400 milligrams.

You may not realize it, but it’s likely that more than 70% of the sodium in your diet comes from packaged foods and meals cooked in restaurants. Buying fresh foods and cooking at home are some of the best ways to cut back.

Read Food Labels

Some foods you don’t think of as salty, like bread or cookies, can have a surprising amount of sodium. Before you buy a food, check the packaging to know how much sodium it has.

The Nutrition Facts panel lists the milligrams of sodium in one serving of that food, as well as the daily value (DV) — the percentage of the daily recommended amount of that nutrient — that you get from a serving. If you’re trying to eat less salt, it’s a good idea to buy foods with 5% DV or less of sodium.

Also, check out the ingredients list. If you see the words “salt,” “soda,” or “sodium” in any form, the item has sodium in it.

A few other terms on food packaging can give you a clue about its sodium content:

Sodium-free: The food has less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Very low sodium: It has less than 35 milligrams of sodium in a serving.

Less (or reduced) sodium: The food has at least 25% less sodium in a serving than usual.

Light in sodium: There’s at least 50% less sodium per serving than usual.


Low-Sodium Foods to Try

Grocery store shelves are packed with plenty of low-salt choices that can help you build a heart-healthy diet. Here’s how to shop for the essentials:

Fruits and vegetables. You can buy them fresh or frozen, but choose the ones without added butter, sauces, or seasonings.

Meat. Processed meats like bacon, lunchmeat, hot dogs, sausage, salami, and ham are high in sodium. So are meats that are smoked, cured, or canned. Instead, buy fresh or frozen fish, chicken, beef, or pork that you can cook and season yourself. Some raw meats have sodium added as part of their packing process. If there’s a Nutrition Facts label, look for a DV of 5% sodium or less.

Beans. You can buy dried beans to cook at home so you can control how much salt goes in. If you buy them in a can, look for those with no salt added. Rinse them off before you eat them to remove extra sodium.

Cereals. Oatmeal and shredded wheat are healthy choices. Choose the plain kinds, you can dress them up with fruit or nuts before you eat them. If you buy cold cereals, look for ones with 5% DV sodium or less on the Nutrition Facts label.

Pasta, rice, and other grains. Skip the pre-seasoned kinds and go for whole grains, like brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, or couscous.

Snacks. Good bets include unsalted popcorn, crackers, pretzels, and nuts.

Dairy foods. Milk, yogurt, and many other dairy products are naturally low in salt. When it comes to cheese and butter, look for low- or no-salt options.

Dressings and condiments. Store-bought versions of salsa, salad dressing, soy sauce, and other condiments can be super salty. The best bet is to make your own at home. If you buy premade, look for low- or no-sodium versions. And watch your portion sizes. Some store-bought items like ketchup aren’t too bad if you stick to a tablespoon or so.

A few other ways to cut back on the salt you eat:

  • Use herbs and spices to season your food: You can add great flavor to your meals without ever lifting the saltshaker. Try citrus juice or zest, black or red pepper, allspice, ginger, cardamom, dill, curry, sage, or rosemary. You may not even miss the salt.
  • Be careful with light salts: Some salt substitutes have table salt in them. If you use these items too much, you’ll still take in too much sodium. Most of them also have potassium chloride, which can cause problems for people with heart failure.
  • Track your sodium levels daily: You can download worksheets online to help you track, or just keep notes on your smartphone or with a pencil and paper.
  • Take it slow: It takes about 6 to 8 weeks to get used to eating less salt. Make small changes every day, and be patient with yourself.

What About Restaurants?

Though cooking at home is a good way to control the amount of sodium in your food, you’ll still want to have a meal out from time to time. There are some good ways to stick to your low-salt goals when you go out:

  • Ask if the restaurant has a separate low-sodium menu.
  • Ask for your food to be prepared without added salt or MSG.
  • Instead of fried foods, go for items that are steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, roasted, or poached.
  • Request olive oil and vinegar instead of salad dressing.
  • Skip the breadbasket or ask for whole-grain breads, rolls, or breadsticks.
  • Choose appetizers with lots of fruits and veggies. Avoid those with heavy sauces or butter.
  • Enjoy sorbet, sherbet, meringues, or plain cake with fruit puree for dessert.
  • Order a fruit salad, tossed greens, or spinach salad without added cheese or meat.

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