Sodium is an essential mineral required in our diet. It maintains many essential functions in the body. In this article, we will discuss everything about sodium, its health effects, and a low-sodium diet.
Salt and Sodium
Salt is a mixture of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It is mainly of two types: sea salt and table salt. They both have the same nutritional values.
- Sea Salt is produced by evaporating ocean water, with minimum processing. It is very coarse.
- Table Salt is produced from mining underground salt deposits; it is heavily processed. It has a finer consistency.
Sodium is a mineral that is found in many different natural and artificial products. You can find the amount of sodium listed on the nutrients list of many food products.
Sodium is a component of salt. Sodium and salt are separate things, and people often tend to confuse the two together. These terms should not be interchanged because they are very different.
Facts about Sodium
Sodium is vital to health. Humans require a minimum of 500 milligrams of sodium per day. It is recommended that an average healthy human being should consume 1500 to 2400 milligrams of sodium per day.
Sodium helps maintain normal fluid balances and regulatory processes in the body. It also regulates cellular function, nerve function, and muscle function. Some foods naturally contain sodium, such as eggs and vegetables, while other foods are artificially seasoned with sodium chloride. Plant-based foods have low sodium, while animal-based food products like meat have high sodium content.
In many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney diseases, consuming a lot of sodium might produce adverse effects. That is why limited dietary sodium intake is recommended.
A teaspoon of salt has approximately 2300 milligrams of sodium in it. A low-sodium diet is when you consume no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day.
Most sodium in our diets does not come from salt; it comes from processed foods.
A low-sodium diet is not necessarily required for everyone. If you don’t consume enough sodium, it might cause an imbalance in normal body functions.
As you have learned by now, there are many ill-effects of consuming sodium. This article further discusses the benefits of a low-sodium diet and ways you can lower your daily sodium intake, along with a lot of healthy snack recommendations.
Benefits of a Low-Sodium Diet
A low-sodium diet is not only necessary for health compromised patients, lowering the daily intake of sodium might give additional health benefits.
- It reduces the risk of hypertension and heart diseases.
- It reduces excessive weight gain and bloating.
- It reduces headaches.
- It helps treat edema.
- It helps with osteoporosis.
- It prevents stomach cancer.
- It helps prevent kidney diseases and stroke.
Most low-sodium diets are used in a hospital setup.
How to Limit Sodium Intake?
Most packaged and processed foods are packed with sodium, such as chips, drinks, frozen or fast food, etc. You can help cut back on sodium by following these tips.
- Try cooking for yourself instead of eating out. Restaurants tend to serve sodium-dense foods.
- Try consuming more legumes, lentils, fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs.
- Maintain healthy body weight.
- Completely avoid the intake of high sodium foods. Read nutritional values and look for foods that have a sodium content of 140 mg or less per serving, with small serving sizes.
- Avoid pickles. Try to make homemade pickles using mustard and vinegar.
- Avoid salted nuts, soups, canned products, and cheeses.
- Boxed meals and baking mixes often have high amounts of sodium, so try to make your own.
- Don’t use store-bought sauces and condiments.
- Packaged juices are not fresh and preserved using high amounts of sodium.
- Many pre-made seasonings such as garlic salt, onion salt, MSG, and meat tenderizer have high-sodium content. Instead of these, use herbs for seasoning.
- If you want, try using frozen foods that have a sodium content of 600 mg or less.
- Processed meats and cold cuts have high levels of sodium.
- Be careful and check labels for sodium content on bread and other pre-made baked goods.
- Citrus is a great salt substitute. Try using lemon to get that salty taste in some foods. Ginger and garlic are a great way to season foods as well.
- Experiment with natural spices to get the flavors you like.
Low-Sodium Snack Recommendations
Although we agree that high sodium foods taste amazing, especially snacks, but, sometimes replacing high-sodium snacks with whole foods can be just as appetizing. Incorporating snacks that have high-fiber content can also make you feel fuller and limit snacking between meals. These simple and healthy snacks are perfect to munch on between meals, without the excess sodium.
- Carrots and hummus.
- Fruit with yogurt or nut butter, like berries with yogurt and banana with peanut butter.
- Unsalted popcorn.
- Low-sodium cheese with veggies.
- Dried fruits and seeds.
- Dark chocolate.
- Sodium-free protein or energy bars.
- Dried unsalted lentils and peas.
- Roasted seaweed.
- Grains and beans.
Sodium is an essential mineral for our body. A low-sodium diet does not mean to cease sodium intake completely. It is advised to keep your sodium intake within given ranges to avoid any damaging effects of sodium.
Consuming too little sodium might have negative effects on your health, but a low-sodium diet has a variety of health benefits. Try cooking more at home and use fresh ingredients. Monitoring your salt intake is always recommended.