As Americans, we could all afford to follow a low sodium diet. Inside of your body, sodium, aka salt, acts like a sponge causing your body to retain water. This forces your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, thus increasing your blood pressure. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, and according to the American Heart Association (AHA), high blood pressure is a major risk factor. It is estimated that one in three Americans will develop high blood pressure, and therefore, should follow a low sodium diet. Excess sodium can also cause other health issues such as increased risk for stroke, kidney disease, heart failure, osteoporosis and more. The AHA recommends that we should aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Here are 7 foods to avoid if you are on a low sodium diet (which should really be all of us!).
1. Processed Snacks
The easiest of all of the foods to avoid if you are on a low sodium diet is processed snacks. Things like cookies, crackers, chips, cheese puffs, cheese spreads, pickles and salted nuts are all extremely high in sodium. Another issue with these foods is that they usually contain much more than one serving per container, but who only eats one serving? Usually no one. Instead of processed snacks choose fresh snacks like baby carrots and hummus, apple slices and natural peanut butter or unsalted nuts and dried fruit.
2. Processed Meats
Processed meats like luncheon meats, bacon, sausage, smoked meats, corned beef or cured meats are generally very high in sodium. Instead of selecting these meats, choose fresh meats in smaller amounts. As a vegan myself, this isn’t an issue for me, but for my meat eating husband, I like to grill a few chicken breasts at the start of the week and then slice them thinly for him to use on sandwiches all week long. This not only reduces the sodium but it reduces the added chemicals like nitrates/nitrites as well.
3. Canned Soups
Another food to avoid on a low sodium diet is canned soups. Canned soups are high in sodium in order to preserve the food and extend the shelf life. I like to make a large pot of soup on Sundays and portion it out into single serving jars and freeze them for the week. This way, I can easily grab a fresh jar of soup on my way out the door for work. Another thing to think about from this group is broth. Always purchase low sodium or no salt added broths, or you can even make your own!
4. TV Dinners
One of the worst offenders if you are following a low sodium diet is TV dinners. Although they might be convenient, TV dinners can often contain the maximum amount of sodium you should have for the day in one meal. Don’t be fooled by the “light” options either; while they might have less fat, they often have far more salt and sugar. Make sure you read the labels carefully if you are selecting a frozen dinner. Other convenient meals that are high in sodium include pizza due to the large amount of cheese, ramen noodles due to the flavor packet, and poultry dishes depending on how they are prepared.
Speaking of condiments, these yummy little add ons can really add up when it comes to sodium! Condiments high in sodium include chili sauce, relish, prepared mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, Teriyaki sauce and soy sauce. A few lower sodium options include unsalted ketchup, vinegar, and fresh lemon, lime or orange juice. When purchasing condiments, choose low-sodium or sodium-free brands or find a substitution instead.
Unfortunately, many spices are ruined by manufactures by adding salt directly to the product. Who would ever guess that chili powder already has salt added to it? A few high sodium spices to look out for include celery salt, garlic salt, lemon pepper, meat extracts, meat tenderizers, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and onion salt. Add flavor to your food by choosing lower sodium options like pepper, herbs and sodium-free spice blends instead.
Another seemingly healthy option that really is anything but that is a sandwich. Due to the bread, cold cuts, cheese and condiments, many sandwiches can contain more than 100 percent of your daily sodium recommendations. Stick to fresh, homemade items whenever possible and really check the labels when purchasing the ingredients to make a sandwich. If you find yourself away from home and a sandwich is the only option, try eating only half of the sandwich and get a green salad with a vinegar based dressing on the side instead.
According the AHA, these salt loving habits start early: 97% of children and adolescents eat too much salt. On average, Americans consume 3,436 mg of sodium per day, well over the 1,500 mg per day recommendation. What can you do to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet?