Eating a low-sodium diet has several important health benefits. Even reducing your sodium intake by a small amount can lower your blood pressure over time. Less sodium can also reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke. When our bodies receive too much sodium, extra fluid is pulled into the bloodstream. This increased volume of fluid puts stress on the blood vessels and causes them to harden over time. This causes the heart to have to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. By cutting back on sodium, you can help take strain off your heart and blood vessels. That’s where it’s important to know the best foods to reduce sodium.
If your doctor has recommended reducing sodium in your diet, you may have removed the saltshaker from your table. While that is a helpful change, most of the sodium we eat does not come from table salt. According to the American Heart Association, about 70 percent of the sodium that Americans consume comes from processed foods. The best way to control sodium in your diet is to cook fresh food at home.
Know Your Labels
To better understand your sodium intake, look at the labels on the foods you eat regularly. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. Foods that contain 400 milligrams of sodium or more in a serving are considered high in sodium and should be avoided. Low-sodium foods contain less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Most of us don’t realize just how much salt we’re taking in. Experts at the American Heart Association estimate that the average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day.
Foods to Reduce Sodium
While cutting back on sodium may feel challenging at first, know that it is well worth the effort. It’s also helpful to understand that our taste buds can adjust over time. This means that if you cut down on salt in your diet, your food may taste bland at first but will improve as you go. Here are some foods to reduce sodium in your diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a key part of a healthy diet. These foods are naturally low in sodium and rich in vital nutrients. They also make delicious low-sodium side dishes.
When cooking vegetables, add a pinch of salt and taste as you go. Usually a little salt on roasted veggies goes a long way.
If you’re saving time with frozen or canned produce, keep an eye on the sodium levels. Look for labels that say “low sodium” or “no salt added.” Before preparing canned vegetables, rinse them in the sink to wash away any salty preserving liquid. For frozen veggies, avoid products that come in salty sauces like cheese or cream.
Whole grains are an important part of a heart-healthy diet and are loaded with fiber and good-for-you energy. Look for whole grains that contain less than 5 percent of your daily value of sodium. The nutrition label will have this information. Avoid products that contain more than 20 percent of your daily sodium, as this is considered high.
Healthy whole grains to add to your diet include:
Whole-wheat bread, pasta, couscous, tortillas, bagels and English muffins
Lean, unsalted proteins are naturally low in sodium. Look for meat and poultry that has 5 percent or less of your daily sodium. Most unseasoned meats contain about 100 milligrams of sodium in a four-ounce serving.
Poultry (without added broth or saline; and skinless means less fat)
Beans (cooked from dry or rinsed from the can)
Lean cuts of beef or pork
Dairy is a good source of protein and can be part of a low-sodium diet.
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Look for low-sodium, plant-based sources.
Vegetables oils, such as olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut and corn
Unsalted butter (in moderation)
Forget salty seasoning packets and pump your foods with natural flavor.
Lemon or lime juice
Foods to Avoid
When watching your sodium intake, it’s best to avoid processed or packaged foods as you are able. These usually contain high levels of sodium and sugar.
Canned soups and stews
Canned tomato sauce
Marinades and soy sauce
Ketchup and mustard
Crackers and chips
Prepackaged mixes for potatoes or rice
Olives and pickles
Salted butter and margarine
Taco seasonings and spice packets
Get started in the kitchen with these simple and flavorful low-sodium recipes.
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I first made this recipe when my husband and I had to start watching our diet. Since then, I’ve been asked to make my turkey meat loaf many times. —Ruby Rath, New Haven, Indiana
I’m always getting recipe inspiration from newspapers and magazines. Here’s a tender roast with aromatic spices that give it a Moroccan feel. —Karen Burdell, Lafayette, Colorado
Relax after work with a cold drink while this savory chicken marinates in an herby tomato blend for an hour, then toss it on the grill. It’s one of those basil recipes that tastes just like summer. —Laura Lunardi, West Chester, Pennsylvania
My husband and I are trying to add more fish and healthy entrees to our diet and this one makes it easy. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, so it’s perfect for hectic weeknights. —Donna McDonald, Lake Elsinore, California
Lemon-pepper is our seasoning of choice for these chops. With the honey-orange Dijon sauce, there’s no need to pass the salt. —Shirley Goehring, Lodi, California
This simple recipe ensures a tender steak without a long marinating time. Steak sauce and balsamic vinegar are a great team, and you can’t go wrong with melty Swiss on top.
I live in Georgia, but I appreciate the tangy, sweet and slightly spicy taste of Carolina vinegar chicken. I make my version in the slow cooker. After the tempting aroma fills the house, your family is sure to be at the dinner table on time! —Ramona Parris, Canton, Georgia
When we barbecue, we like to wow our guests, so dogs and burgers are out! We make tuna skewers topped with salsa—the perfect easy recipe. My five kids like to help me put them together. —Jennifer Ingersoll, Herndon, Virginia
While living away from Texas for a while, my boyfriend and I grew homesick for the spicy flavors of home. We’ve made this recipe a few times now, and it goes really well with homemade flour tortillas. We love it over rice, too. —Kelly Evans, Denton, Texas
I love the zesty taste of this moist grilled tenderloin. The cumin, avocado and jalapeno give it southwestern flair. It’s an easy, elegant way to prepare pork. —Josephine Devereaux Piro, Easton, Pennsylvania
My family loves this dish! There’s nothing better than oven baked boneless chicken thighs for dinner. It looks and tastes like you fussed, but it is really simple to make. These roasted chicken thighs use healthy olive oil and fresh herbs from my garden. —Pattie Prescott, Manchester, New Hampshire
A wonderful crust layered with herbed tomato sauce and toppings encourages my family of six to dig right in to this low-fat main course. —Denise Warner, Red Lodge, Montana
Basted with a simple glaze, this wonderfully moist and tender turkey bakes to a lovely golden brown. Make it the centerpiece of your holiday table; guests will be glad you did. —Greg Fontenot, The Woodlands, Texas
A quick garlicky lime marinade works magic on these juicy shrimp. They come off the grill with huge flavors perfect for your next cookout. —Melissa Rodriguez, Van Nuys, California
The sweetness of the apples and onions nicely complements the roast pork. With its crisp skin and melt-in-your-mouth flavor, this is my family’s favorite weekend dinner. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
We like trying to make “street foods” at home, perfecting recipes for dishes like gyros and these spiced burgers, known as kofta. — Anne Henry, Toronto, Ontario
Dine as though you’re in a traditional British pub. These moist fish fillets from the oven have a fuss-free coating that’s healthy but just as crunchy and golden as the deep-fried kind. Simply seasoned and baked, the crispy fries are perfect on the side. —Janice Mitchell, Aurora, Colorado
When I see Meyer lemons in the store, it must be spring. I like using them for these easy chicken kabobs, but regular grilled lemons still add the signature smoky tang. —Terri Crandall, Gardnerville, Nevada
I got this recipe from a friend’s collection many years ago. It’s how my family makes steak on the grill and a must when we’re having company. —Debbie Bonczek, Tariffville, Connecticut
This was something I created as a teenager, back when I was a vegetarian. Now that my daughter doesn’t eat meat, she asks for this dinner several times a week. —Ashlynn Azar, Beaverton, Oregon
Fresh corn and basil make this dish taste like summer. I think it’s a good one for bringing to picnics or gatherings, but it’s great along with any side dish for a weeknight dinner! —Sally Maloney, Dallas, Georgia
I love reinventing classic recipes to fit our taste and healthy lifestyle. This recipe is quick to prepare and can be served with oven fries or on its own. You can add Greek olives, omit the onion, or even use cubed pork tenderloin for a new taste. —Kayla Douthitt, Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Once I discovered brown rice pasta, I never looked back. Tossed with ginger, bright veggies and rotisserie chicken, it tastes like a deconstructed egg roll! —Tiffany Ihle, Bronx, New York
We’ve lived in Arizona for decades, so Mexican-style cooking has become the same as “Arizona-style cooking” for us. Nothing tastes better than chili-spiced pork with tortillas. —Anne Fatout, Phoenix, Arizona
You’ll be amazed that you can make this simple, elegant pasta in mere minutes. Serve with crusty bread to soak up all of the garlic lemon sauce. —Athena Russell, Greenville, South Carolina
Fruit cocktail in stir-fry? You might be surprised by how good this dish is. It’s a promising go-to option when time’s tight. —Jeanne Holt, Mendota Heights, Minnesota
These steak kabobs not only satisfy my love of outdoor cooking, they feature a mouthwatering marinade, too. It’s terrific with chicken and pork, but I prefer it with beef because it tenderizes remarkably well. —Christi Ross, Guthrie, Texas
Broiled or grilled, this simple chicken recipe has been a favorite for years. Try it with your favorite herbs. —Rebecca Sodergren, Centerville, Ohio
This beef is delicious whether you serve it all rolled up in a tortilla, with corn salsa in a burrito, in a bun or over rice or mashed potatoes. So many options! —Darcy Williams, Omaha, Nebraska
Chicken breasts stay nice and moist tucked under a blanket of melted cheese. It’s extra special to serve but is not tricky to make. —Katrina Wagner, Grain Valley, Missouri
These mushrooms are rich and creamy and bright at the same time because of the fresh herbs and tomato. I especially like to serve them with grilled asparagus. —Tre Balchowsky, Sausalito, California
People think I went to a lot of trouble when I serve these packets. Individual aluminum foil pouches hold in the juices during baking to keep the herbed chicken moist and tender. The foil saves time and makes cleanup a breeze. —Edna Shaffer, Beulah, Michigan
When people try this dish, they ask for the recipe, just as I did when I first tasted it when visiting a friend’s home. Tossed in a delicious lemon sauce, this simple skillet dish is sure to satisfy on the busiest of nights. It’s a great way to use leftover turkey. —May Evans, Corinth, Kentucky
Here’s a terrific recipe for your next weeknight dinner. Set out various toppings and garnishes so your family members can customize their own tostadas with the lime-kissed shredded pork. —Jan Valdez, Chicago, Illinois
Get out there and fire up the grill for pork kabobs, a tasty alternative to chicken and beef. These sweet and gingery beauties make dinnertime happy. —Tonya Burkhard, Palm Coast, Florida
I like to serve fish tacos with quinoa and black beans for a complete and satisfying meal. If you’ve got them, add colorful summer toppings like bright peppers, green onions or purple carrots. —Camille Parker, Chicago, Illinois
I created this recipe one day when I was scrambling to find ingredients for dinner. My husband absolutely loved it. Now it’s the only way I make pork!—Cyndi Lacy-Andersen, Woodinville, Washington
A pepper rub gives this moist, tender beef a bit of a zippy taste. It takes just minutes to prepare, and the meat slices well. Lining the baking pan with foil makes it a breeze to clean up, too. —Denise Bitner, Reedsville, Pennsylvania
My husband used to get home from work before me, and one evening, he cooked this for dinner. We’ve used the same recipe ever since. It’s delicious. —Kathy Kirkland, Denham Springs, Louisiana
This easy stir-fry combines the pasta with green pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes in an Italian-style sauce. I made up this recipe one evening, and it was a big hit with my family. —Janeen Longfellow, Wolcottville, Indiana