Sodium is a mineral found in many foods and medications. It helps regulate blood pressure and body fluids. While health experts recommend limiting sodium to 2,400 mg a day, most Americans eat more than 5,000 mg a day.
Reducing sodium may help decrease blood pressure and fluid retention. Other dietary and lifestyle changes may also help lower blood pressure. These include:
Weight loss, if overweight
Increased fruit and vegetable intake
Decreased or limited alcohol consumption
Tips to Lower Sodium Intake
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Breads, cereals, plain pasta, or rice
Low-fat milk and yogurt
Fresh meat and poultry
Read labels — look for products that say:
Very low sodium
Choose foods with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving, as demonstrated on the sample label to the right.
Choose salt-free seasonings:
- Do not add salt when cooking or at the table.
- Use herbs and spices to add flavor to your food. Avoid those that have salt in them, like garlic salt and seasoning salt.
Avoid These Foods
Many condiments and cooking products have added sodium and should be limited. These include:
- Soy sauce
- Meat sauce (A.1.)
- Gravies and sauces
- Barbeque sauce
- Salad dressing
- Meat tenderizers
- Cooking wine
- Worcestershire sauce
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Foods that are cured in brine or smoked are high in sodium. Limit the following foods, or look for low-sodium brands:
- Ham, deviled ham
- Luncheon meats
- Hot dogs
- Tuna and sardines
- Processed cheese
- Cheese spreads
- Salt pork and bacon fat
Other foods that are usually high in sodium include:
- Canned or dehydrated soups
- Frozen dinners
- Bouillon or broth
- Canned vegetables
- Tomato juice and V-8 juice
- Fast food
- Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
- Packaged potato, rice, or stuffing mixes
- Snack foods (chips, salted nuts)
Salt substitutes are often made of potassium chloride. If you are taking a blood pressure medication or have kidney disease, check with your dietitian or doctor before you use them.
Remember: The more processes a food goes through to get to the shelf, the more sodium it will have in it. Fresh is best, frozen next, and then canned.