How to Avoid Foods High in Sodium

saltObviously, you can’t cook with less sodium if you buy ingredients that are already loaded with salt. The most important thing to do to minimize the amount of sodium you eat is to avoid purchasing most processed foods. Snack and baked goods are usually very high in sodium, and, unfortunately, this includes most whole grain breads. The American Heart Association recommends you limit your sodium intake to 1500 mg per day, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman recommends a limit of 1000 mg per day in his book, The End of Heart Disease, so please read all nutrition labels on products you buy so you can estimate how much sodium you are consuming. In addition, know that the percentages listed on the nutrition labels are a percent of 2300 mg sodium per day, so pay attention to what the label says in terms of milligrams of sodium, and don’t rely on the percentages.

Products that I no longer buy due to the salt they contain include broths and stocks, cooking wine, seasoned rice vinegar, sauces, herb and spice mixes, and some brands of udon noodles, among others. (I know that typically pasta doesn’t contain salt, but I found a package of udon noodles with over 1000 mg per serving. That’s just insane!) Some frozen vegetables also contain added salt. If you don’t already check food labels, I think you will be amazed at the high concentrations of sodium in most processed foods.

To avoid the sodium in broths, I usually substitute water and add in some “no added salt seasoning” (many plants contain some sodium, so these mixes will contain small amounts of sodium, hence the “no added” designation). Most recipes taste great when made with water. For special occasions, I find it worthwhile to make my own vegetable stock. If you can find a nice vegetable stock or broth on the market which doesn’t contain any added sodium and it fits in your budget, buy it.

To avoid the sodium in canned beans, I cook dried beans, but you may be able to find canned beans with no added salt where you shop.

I do buy some products that are salty, and I use a small amount to enhance flavor. These include capers, peperoncini, soy sauce, tamari, pickles, mustards, miso, chutneys, salsas, olives and the like. I buy less sodium soy sauce and rinse olives and pickles. You can usually stay below the recommended daily sodium limits when you add small amounts of these foods. All bets are off if you start popping olives. (But from personal experience, I know that if you get accustomed to eating a low-salt diet, you will find an olive overwhelmingly salty and unappealing.) I calculate nutrition information for my recipes to make sure sodium levels stay low. However, please follow your health professional’s guidelines. If you have high blood pressure, you may not be able to eat any of the foods I have listed here.

Were chips and salsa your favorite snack? Did you give up meat, fish, eggs and ice cream and think that you had done enough? I know this isn’t easy. Kudos for making such a huge change, and know that you might not find anyone in your social circle who has such a restricted diet; but there are others out there, somewhere, who understand what you are going through and would offer their support and encouragement if they could.