Thinking about a low sodium diet? Sodium is an important part of our nutrition. It assists in maintaining balance between water and minerals in the body and in ensuring that your nerves and muscles function properly. While you need to make sure you meet your sodium intake on a day-to-day basis, too much sodium can cause issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
As a result, there are many benefits to eating a low sodium diet. While this doesn’t mean to completely cut it out as you still need it to function, a low sodium diet means that you are aware of the amount of sodium you consume on a daily basis so that you don’t exceed the recommended amount.
How much sodium should you have per day?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 1,500 mg (milligrams) of sodium per day for the average adult, as the ideal benchmark to hit. However, as an absolute maximum, we shouldn’t have over 2,300mg of sodium on a daily basis.
This is constantly surpassed by the average American who consumes 3,400mg of sodium, which can lead to problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
Benefits of eating a low sodium diet
Here are some benefits of eating a low sodium diet:
It can improve your diet
While a good diet is one that is balanced, that is, eating your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables but also enjoying ‘less nutritious’ foods once in a while, shifting your focus to low sodium will automatically eliminate the amount of pre packaged foods you’ll consume.
This is because food that comes ready to eat tend have much higher levels of sodium as it adds flavor. By ensuring that your diet is mostly made up on fresh fruit and vegetables, you’re improving the quality of your diet, which will bring great health benefits.
Lowers blood pressure and risk of blindness
High levels of sodium will cause blood pressure to rise. This in turn will restrict the blood flow to the eyes, which can eventually cause vision loss. By lowering your sodium count, you’re actually lowering your blood pressure and hence the risk of blindness.
Increase your energy levels
By implementing a low sodium intake, you’ll notice a difference in your energy levels. High levels of sodium affects your arteries; it causes them to thicken, restricting blood supply around the body, hence causing your heart rate to increase and for you to feel fatigued.
By cutting down on sodium, you’ll mitigate or eliminate this problem, meaning you’ll feel much more energized and refreshed throughout the day.
How to reduce sodium intake
There are simple yet effective ways to consume less sodium, such as:
- Eat home cooked meals so you can control the ingredients you use and what goes in your food.
- Season your food with fresh herbs rather than salt.
- Buy low-sodium options/alternatives, such as less salt soy sauce and/or coconut aminos as a substitute
- Buy fresh produce
- Check food labels to see the sodium level of the product and,
- If buying prepackaged foods, choosing ones that don’t have added salt or seasoning so you can control the amount you put on
How to check sodium levels
Knowing that a low sodium diet can benefit you is one thing, it’s another to know how to implement it in your diet. Pre-packaged foods come with naturally higher sodium counts than organic, fresh food, so it’s best to check the nutrition label to find the value.
According to AHA, these are the definitions that can help you identify what it low and high in sodium:
- “Salt/Sodium-Free – Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving
- Very Low Sodium – 35 milligrams or less per serving
- Low Sodium – 140 milligrams or less per serving
- Reduced Sodium – At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level
- Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted– At least 50 percent less sodium than the regular product.”
By consuming less sodium, you’re establishing preventative measures to protect yourself against health conditions and issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and vision loss. It also means a natural shift to better diet quality by cutting down on prepackaged foods and increasing fresh produce.