- Four Simple Steps to a Low-sodium Lifestyle
(ARA) - Implementing a low-sodium
diet is a challenge because sodium is everywhere. The typical
American eats a high number of processed foods such as frozen
dinners, boxed noodle and rice dishes, canned soups and canned
vegetables, all of which are very high in sodium. So, even if
you do not add salt while cooking or use a salt shaker at the
table, you are probably eating too much.
Sodium is the word used on labels
for packaged and processed foods and it is the main ingredient
in salt. The total daily intake of sodium is that which is known
to be in food items plus the extra salt that one uses in cooking
or seasoning food.
If you have recently suffered
a heart attack and been told you have heart failure, it's likely
your doctor advised you to cut back on your sodium intake because
heart failure causes the body to hold on to extra sodium, which
in turn causes extra fluid to build up in your body. The extra
fluid makes your heart work harder, which is not a good thing
for a muscle already under strain.
A low-sodium diet includes no
more than 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. That
is the same as two to three grams of sodium a day. To give you
an idea of how much that is: one teaspoon of salt equals approximately
2,300 mg of sodium.
What can you do to cut back on
the sodium? Here are four tips from the Heart Failure Society
of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing quality
and the duration of life for patients with heart failure and
preventing the condition in those at risk:
1. Stop adding salt to your
By simply taking the salt shaker
off the table, and stopping the practice of adding salt to food
when cooking, you can cut your sodium intake by as much as 30
percent. Foods with less sodium can still be considered tasty.
There are a lot of seasoning options available to spice things
up. These include black, cayenne and lemon pepper; fresh herbs
like garlic, onion powder, dill, parsley and rosemary; lemon
juice; and flavored extracts like vanilla, almond, etc.
2. Adapt preferred foods to
There are low-sodium substitutes
for many of the foods you like. For example, instead of preparing
a country ham, you can cook a fresh lean pork roast. Instead
of buying lunch meats, which typically contain high amounts of
sodium, you can cook fresh chicken, turkey, roast beef or pork
without adding salt and then cut it up for sandwiches the next
day. If you like soup, instead of buying the canned version,
which is very high in sodium and preservatives, you can cut up
fresh vegetables and put them in a slow cooker and use herbs
and spices for seasoning.
Many types of canned vegetables
that you enjoy are also available in low-sodium versions. Just
look for labels that say sodium-free, no-salt, low-sodium, reduced-sodium
3. Pick foods naturally low
Generally, you can eat as much
fresh food as you want without counting the sodium content. Fresh
fruits and vegetables, including freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable
juices, have very little sodium. The same is true for fresh meat,
poultry and fish.
If you are not eating fresh foods,
choose other low-sodium foods as much as possible, such as canned
fruits, plain frozen vegetables and dried beans, peas, rice and
4. Learn to read food labels.
By reading food labels, you can
learn which foods are high and low in sodium. As a rule, most
processed foods, whether they are frozen, canned or boxed, are
high in sodium, but don't rule them out entirely. Some packaged
foods are available in low- or no-salt versions.
It can be difficult to change
your eating habits, but try implementing changes slowly instead
of all at once. It may take weeks before you enjoy the taste
of low-sodium foods, but your taste buds will adjust. Eventually
you might not even miss the salt.