Eating a diet low in sodium helps lower blood pressure, and therefore, heart disease risk. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or DASH) diet is a famous heart-healthy eating plan. It was developed for research to determine what combination of foods helps to lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. One part of the study compared various sodium levels to see if blood pressure was affected. The results were dramatic and showed that the lower the intake of sodium, the lower the blood pressures were for participants.
A daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium is recommended by the American Heart Association for people with heart disease. This may seem drastic to most Americans, who generally consume more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium per day. But sodium is an acquired taste, so with persistence, it is possible to become accustomed to the taste of lower sodium foods.
Keep in mind that processed convenience foods generally have more sodium. And chances are, they have more saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol, which are more reasons to avoid them.
Tips to Help Reduce Sodium Intake
- Try limiting meals to 400 to 500 milligrams of sodium or less.
- Try aiming for 200 milligrams of sodium or less at snack time.
- Put away the salt shaker. Replace it with any sodium-free spice mix, which you can keep on the table or at the stove.
- Add flavor to foods with roasted garlic, caramelized onion, fresh herbs, citrus, wine, fruit juices and homemade chicken stock.
- Avoid canned foods, unless choosing a product specifically made without sodium, such as fruits, some salt-free vegetables or tomato products.
- Limit processed, convenience foods such as frozen meals and pizzas.
- Avoid frozen vegetables with sauces.
- Try to eat out only once per week or even less often.
- Limit fast foods, especially fried foods.
- Limit cheeses; choose Swiss cheese for its low sodium content.
- Limit commercially baked items such as breads, cakes and cookies.
- Limit condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and marinades.