As a registered dietitian on a cardiology unit, a big part of my job is educating patients on how to follow a low-sodium, heart-healthy diet. It’s important to note that a low-sodium diet is not just recommended for those with heart disease, but is for everyone.
The American Heart Association published new guidelines this year stating that all Americans need to limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day. Too much sodium, or salt, can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. High blood pressure is already a major public health problem, with 90 percent of American adults expected to develop it in their lifetime. This is no surprise since the average adult consumes about 3,000 mg of sodium per day, more than twice the new recommendation.
Salt has a variety of roles in food, so oftentimes it can be hard to avoid. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started:
Put the salt shaker away (½ teaspoon table salt = 1,200 mg sodium).
Experiment with fresh or dried herbs and spices to add flavor in place of salt.
Visit this website for seasoning suggestions.
Fresh is always best.
Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium. If using canned vegetables, look for the “no added salt” version and be sure to rinse them before use. Choose fresh or frozen poultry and fish, and other lean meats. Limit cured, high-sodium meats like bacon, sausage, bologna, pepperoni and ham.
Eat less processed food
Cut back on frozen dinners, fried snacks and quick dinner products like flavored rice and pasta. Be wary of high-sodium condiments. Use ketchup, soy sauce and salad dressings in moderation.
Learn to read food labels
Find out how much sodium is in the food per serving by using the food label. Look for products with less than 300 mg of sodium per serving. Try to choose the “lower sodium” or “reduced sodium” version of your favorite foods.
For more information visit the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Center at www.heart.org for great recipes, cookbook suggestions and dining out tips.
Read the Heart Failure Society of America’s education module on how to follow a low sodium diet, available at www.hfsa.org.
Sarah Holland, MSc, RD, CNSC, LDN, is a clinical dietitian who works in the Coronary Care Unit at Rush University Medical Center.