Limiting your sodium consumption is an important step in preventing or controlling high blood pressure and lowering your risk for kidney disease and stroke. High-sodium foods are widely available, leading the average American to consume far more sodium than is healthy, but plenty of low-sodium foods are also viable options. Select unprocessed foods whenever possible to help you limit your sodium consumption.
Read the Label to Identify Sodium-Free Foods
Almost all foods naturally contain at least a small amount of sodium, but the Food and Drug Administration permits food manufacturers to claim on food labels that the food is sodium-free if it contains less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving. This amount is less than 1 percent of the daily value for sodium, which is 2,400 milligrams. Processed foods, such as canned soups, pickles and condiments, are often high-sodium.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Many fresh fruits and vegetables are sodium-free. Apples, bananas and grapes each contain less than 5 milligrams of sodium per cup. Winter squash, zucchini, corn and asparagus are examples of sodium-free vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide potassium, which counteracts the effects of sodium and helps control blood pressure. Limit your consumption of processed products, such as french fries, canned vegetables with added salt and tomato or vegetable juice that contains salt, since they can be high-sodium.
Select Unprocessed Whole Grains
Pasta, rice, barley, oats and oat bran are sodium-free. Cook pasta, rice, barley and other grains in unsalted water, and avoid adding high-sodium condiments and sauces such as regular spaghetti sauce and soy sauce. Most breads are high-sodium, and according to the publication “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,” yeast breads are among the top contributors to the sodium content of the typical American Diet. Flour is sodium-free, and you can make your own low-sodium baked goods by reducing the amount of salt you add to recipes.
Obtain Protein from Legumes
Beans, peas and lentils are naturally sodium-free. Cooked black, kidney and other beans without salt contain less than 5 milligrams of sodium per 1/2 cup. Soybeans and some soy products, such as tofu, are also sodium-free. Beans, peas, lentils and soybeans are sources of protein. Select low-sodium canned beans and lentil soup, and be cautious of high-sodium processed products such as vegetarian burgers and baked beans.
References and ResourcesU.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (9. Appendix A: Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims)
Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients)
U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database