One in three Americans is affected by high blood pressure or Hypertension. Foods high in sodium are one of the largest contributing factors to high blood pressure.. Chronic high blood pressure, in turn, can lead to heart disease and other organ failures. Sodium is naturally found in many foods and is necessary to keep your electrolyte levels constant. Electrolytes allow your brain to communicate with the other systems in your body, both voluntary messaging and the involuntary respiration and digestion that keeps you moving. It’s when we consume an overload of processed foods or add in extra sodium salts, that the scale gets tipped and the doctor gets concerned. The recommended intake per day is 1,500 milligrams, which is not even a full teaspoon. A low sodium diet is the start of reinventing your health.
Fresh, fresh, fresh! When you are eating fruit, you should eat the freshly picked version, not the packaged or canned version. Most of the time sodium and preservatives are added to canned foods to prolong shelf life. Apples, bananas, and oranges are not only yummy but contain about 1 milligram of sodium each. Peaches, pears, lemons, pineapple, watermelon, and berries have no natural sodium. In general fresh fruits don’t contain a lot of sodium. You can consume frozen or dried fruits, but be sure to choose those that are free of added sugar.
Go green and go fresh. Some vegetables are high in sodium, so stick to fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, asparagus, and eggplant or squash. These are the best ways to fill yourself up with natural dietary fiber, important for healthy digestion. Eating vegetables cooked without added salt, or just a pinch of sea salt versus iodized salt can help regulate your potassium levels, as well, a complementing mineral of sodium. For example, a small tomato may have around 11 mg; raw spinach has 22 mg; and avocado, just 10 mg of natural sodium.
Herbs and seasonings
It is common to add salt to a dish, as it brings out the flavor food. Adding salt to an already-seasoned, prepared dish doesn’t do much except add extra sodium to your bloodstream. Instead of adding salt, go for the herbs and spices found in the supermarket aisles or your kitchen cupboards. The individual tastes of herbs such as rosemary, garlic, and ginger, or oregano and thyme can enhance your dishes with a subtle depth of flavor. Fresh is always best, but when you buy dried herbs or herb combination packets, make sure they are a salt-free blend.
Those who don’t follow a vegan or vegetarian diet probably consume meat for most of their nightly meals. When buying meat at the grocer, look for chicken or turkey without the skin, or remove the skin before cooking. Lean cuts of beef or pork are best, and of course, fish and shellfish are an excellent source of protein. If you are on a low sodium diet, however, steer clear of shrimp and lobster, as these two shellfish have fairly high natural levels of sodium. If you’re able, buy your meat directly from the butcher. You know it’s freshly delivered and cut, packaged well and ready to be consumed immediately. When you buy meat in the supermarket, double check the packaging to make sure there is no added sodium.
If you have dairy in your diet be sure to choose fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt. Soy milk is a great option, especially if it has added calcium. One thing you need to be aware of in the dairy category is cheese. Some cheeses can be high in sodium, so it’s best to check the label and see how much it contains per 100g (or per serving). You can choose low, or reduced, sodium cheese; it should even be on the front label for you to see. A commonly found, popular low sodium cheese is natural Swiss cheese, and it’s yummy too.
Oils and Dressings
Butter and oil are commonly used for cooking, but be careful how much you’re adding to your food. Oils are often high in trans fats which can be detrimental to your healthy diet. You can still cook with oil; you just need to know which ones. Put away the vegetable oil for frying and switch to canola oil, olive oil, peanut, or sesame, which have a great nutty flavor and add to the meal. Virgin olive oil is best when it is first pressed, and adding a bit of pure vinegar, natural sea salt, pepper, and ground mustard powder to this oil gives you an instant salad dressing. Avoid margarine if at all possible, and if you must, choose the reduced sodium version.
We all love a few spreads and sauces on the lunch or dinner table, especially for meals like barbecue, burgers, or a sandwich buffet. Look at the label of commercially bought condiments – most have a high amount of sodium and preservatives added. These give the condiments a long shelf life but aren’t very good for a low sodium diet. If you are going to consume store-bought condiments, try to buy sodium free, or choose light mayonnaise and ketchup.
Nuts are a high protein, easy-to-eat snack, rich in natural dietary fats and easy to grab on the go. If you aren’t careful about which kinds you’re choosing, however, you could be in for a huge boost to your sodium intake. Many different packaged nuts are salted or have special flavorings that are loaded with sodium. Unsalted is always preferred when trying to lower your sodium consumption, but mix your unsalted nuts with dried fruit pieces or dried peas, and you’ll find they are just as yummy. Whole food stores offer bulk, unsalted nuts, and you can even mix and match for a custom made trail mix blend – fresh, with no added sodium.
The bread you eat might be an unnoticed vessel delivering too much salt to your diet. Two slices of yeast bread a day, essentially your average lunchtime sandwich, accounts for one-fourth of your daily salt intake. Sodium chloride is used in bread production to enhance flavor and ferment yeast so the bread it rises. There is low sodium bread available in the supermarket or health food shop shelves, so make sure that you’re reading the labels closely. Head to the bakery for more options, especially if it’s an independently run farmers bakery, as they’ll often specialize in particular bread that is gluten free and low in sodium.
Dried beans are often available in bags or bulk packets in the supermarket. Beans and legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, broad beans and white or black beans all need to be soaked for a period before use, which makes their preparation time quite lengthy. To avoid this, many people opt for canned beans; however, most labels add salt to the beans before canning, to preserve shelf life and give them added flavor. Canned beans are a great fast side dish and store well – so don’t eliminate these from your diet. Instead, look for clearly marked “no sodium added” versions of your favorite beans.
Beyond sliced bread, swapping whole grains for processed ones is a great way to reduce your sodium intake. Try brown rice instead of white, whole grain or spelt pasta instead of wheat. This also includes things like breakfast cereals, oatmeal, and popcorn. Once you’ve purchased your low-sodium alternatives, don’t cancel out their health benefits by oversalting them during the cooking process. This can be a hard choice for salty popcorn fans; instead of salt, try a Parmesan and parsley mix, black peppercorn and lemon zest, or smoked paprika and garlic powder. Yum!
High potassium foods
Foods high potassium naturally tend to be low sodium. They can also provide a natural counterbalance to higher sodium foods in your diet and can counteract the high sodium levels in food. Whole eggs are a great source of protein, especially the egg whites prepared without the yolks. Milk and Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, quinoa, lentils, and oats all benefit the fight against extra salt in the body. Unsalted almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds, whether alone or mixed, can provide a healthy, low sodium and high potassium snack.