The first time I learned about special diets was when I accompanied my father to his doctor. I usually go with him because he is one of those manly men who won’t go on his own if you ask him to. He’s always been healthy and did things by himself so he believed there was never a need to see any doctors.
The thing was he is starting to get up there in age so I always make sure that he does not miss his annual doctor’s appointment.
This happened a few years ago when the doctor took my father’s blood pressure and noticed it was high. He told my dad that he should change his diet and add more exercise to naturally bring down the blood pressure. Otherwise, the other option would be to take blood pressure medication.
I knew my father was not going to adhere to taking pills at a regular basis so the only solution was to make sure he ate better. That’s when we learned more about the low sodium diet plan.
What is a Low Sodium Diet?
Sodium is present in almost every food we eat. It is the main ingredient in salt, so in general sodium is what gives food the salty taste.
A low sodium diet limits the amount of sodium in the food we eat. Normally, the regular daily allowance for sodium is set at an upper limit 2,300 mg a day. This means we should eat less than this on a daily basis. The problem is Americans average over 3,000 mg of sodium a day.
A low sodium diet limits the amount of sodium to between 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg a day. So this is actually a very loose guideline. How low the amount of sodium you have will depend on what you’re trying to fix. Usually it has to do with blood pressure or bloating. The higher your current blood pressure the lower the amount of sodium you should eat. The more you get bloated, the less the sodium.
Who should go on it?
Staying on a low sodium diet is often something the doctors recommend to patients to help them avoid health complications in the future. As we get older, the risk of getting high blood pressure increases so we should all try to limit our salt intake to the recommended daily limits.
So who should go on a low sodium diet plan? Here’s a list of some of them.
- Anyone who has high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80, while hypertension or high blood pressure is anything above 140/90. So if your BP reading is 140/90 or above, you have high blood pressure.
- Anybody who is over the age of 50. This is because the risk increases over time. And high blood pressure adds to the risk of any heart issues that also increases as we age.
- Anyone who has diabetes, or high blood sugar. Having high blood sugar puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Anybody with kidney disease. High blood pressure when left untreated will damage the kidney.
- African Americans. Studies have shown that African Americans are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Chart
Below is a table where you can check to see if you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) or are pre-hypertensive, which is the stage before becoming high blood pressure. It has been shown that those who have pre-hypertension are at high risk of becoming hypertensive in the future.
To read the table, just take your blood pressure using a monitor and check the upper number (systolic) and the lower number (diastolic) with that in the chart.
For example, if your electronic monitor says, 110/85. Then your systolic is 110, and your diastolic is 85. Based on the chart, this is an example of someone who’s pre-hypertensive, since even their systolic is normal (below 120), their diastolic is above the normal of 80. Note that it is an OR situation so if either number goes over the limit then it is already considered the next level.
Effects and Benefits on Our Health
These are some of the benefits of going on a low sodium diet plan.
- It lowers our blood pressure and helps regulate it so it stays within the normal range. This will help us stay healthy and prevent health problems like kidney disease and heart problems.
- Staying on a low sodium diet helps prevent any bloating or swelling. Salt and sodium make our bodies retain water which makes us feel and look bloated.
- Staying on a diet that’s low in salt help prevent heart disease and stroke.
- Lowers risk of developing kidney stones and also bone loss (which can lead to osteoporosis).
- Regulating your sodium intake helps prevent kidney complications or future risk of kidney disease.
Guidelines for this Diet Plan
- Limit sodium intake to between under 2,300 mg a day. For a truly low sodium diet, limit total daily salt intake to 1,500 mg or lower. Our bodies only need a little over 500 mg of sodium a day so a diet that’s low in sodium is still safe.
- Almost all food have sodium in them naturally. So be aware of how much salt, soy sauce and other salt options you put in food during the cooking process as well as when adding salt on the table.
- Avoid processed food as well as canned goods. Anything processes, packaged or preserved needs to be put in salt. So avoid or limit these types of foods. Prefer fresh foods.
- Learn to read food labels. Use our guide here to see what the nutritional facts on food mean. Knowing this will help you understand what low sodium, reduce sodium and sodium free means and how much sodium there is in the food you buy at the store.
- Prefer eating at home than going out. Restaurant food are often loaded with sodium because it brings out more flavor in food.
- Use alternative flavoring options instead of salt. Herbs and spices are a great way of reducing the amount of salt we put in food.
Alternatives to Using Salt
So what are the things we can use in place of salt? I’ve compiled a few ingredient that you can use
instead of salt. I’ve been using them more and more in the food I cook at home.
Here’s a table of different herbs, spices and seasonings you can use for each food. On each column is the type of food and under each food type are the different seasonings that work well with that food.
The low sodium diet is something that’s become more necessary because of the amount we currently see in our regular diets. It is one of those things where the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies. By reducing salt and salty foods we eat we can avoid all the problems it brings in the future. The biggest thing about it is we don’t need to make too drastic changes. Making small changes over time adds up.