Low-Sodium Diet – How To Limit Sodium And Prevent Health Complications

By Charushila BiswasCharushila Biswas  • 

Sodium (Na) is an essential nutrient that is commonly found in table salt (1). Sodium helps maintain normal cellular homeostasis, electrolyte balance, and blood pressure and regulates fluid balance (2). But too much of it can cause hypertension, altered kidney function, arterial stiffness, and stroke and damage brain function (2), (3). That’s why the WHO highly recommends a low-sodium diet (4). If you are thinking that cutting out table salt from your diet is the answer, you are wrong. READ ON to know various other high-sodium foods that you must avoid, foods to eat, what to order when eating out, and lifestyle tips. Let’s get started!

Highlights Of The Article

What Happens When You Consume Too Much Sodium/Salt?

What Happens When You Consume Too Much SodiumSalt pinit button

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  • When you consume too much sodium, the fluid balance in your body gets disrupted. The high sodium content pulls in water from the bloodstream to your blood vessels. And that increases blood volume, causing high blood pressure (5).
  • Scientists have found that high blood pressure or hypertension is directly proportional to the risk of cardiovascular diseases (6).
  • Too much sodium can cause water retention in the body and lead to chronic renal (kidney) failure by increasing filtration fraction and glomerular (kidney filter) pressure (7).
  • Consuming too much salt can lead to insulin resistance, obesity, leptin resistance, fatty liver, and metabolic disorders (8), (9), (10).
  • Scientists have found that consuming high-sodium foods may decrease regional cerebral blood flow and reduce retention of spatial memory in mice (11), (12).

This brings us to the most common question – how much sodium to consume? Find out next.

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How Much Sodium Should You Consume?

The American Heart Association recommends consuming about 1500 mg – 2300 mg “iodized” salt per day (13).

But most of us consume about 3400 mg sodium per day! This is way too much than the recommended amount.

But isn’t it perplexing that even after consuming less salt, the sodium levels in your blood are so high?

That’s because there are many other sources of salt/sodium in your diet. Take a look at the following basic guidelines to get a glimpse of salty foods that may not taste salty at all!

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Guidelines To Limit Sodium Intake

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  • Avoid using too much salt in your food.
  • Do not add extra salt from the salt shaker.
  • When using soy sauce for cooking or as salad dressing, avoid adding salt to your food.
  • Avoid using lime salt, onion salt, garlic salt, broth cubes, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, barbeque sauce, ketchup, noodle tastemaker, and store-bought teriyaki sauce.
  • Always use fresh ingredients to cook your food.
  • Use lime, lemon, or orange as a meat tenderizer.
  • Read the labels of canned or packaged foods. Look at the sodium content per serving size. Any number below 140 mg or less per serving is good to go in your shopping bag.
  • Avoid consuming ready-to-eat soups.
  • Look for sodium content in seasoning mixes, pasta seasonings, and spices.
  • Do not use salt substitutes.
  • Be aware of the “salty six” – bread and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cut and cured meats, soup, and burritos and tacos.

Here’s a table containing sodium content of foods. It will help you decide what and how much of each of these foods to consume and keep the sodium intake within the allowed range. Take a look.

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Sodium Content Of Foods


FoodServing SizeSodium Content (mg)
Asparagus6 spears10
Avocado (medium)½10
Beans, white, cooked1 cup4
Beans, green1 cup4
Beetroot1 cup84
Broccoli, cooked½ cup20
Carrow, medium, raw125
Carrow, cooked½ cup52
Celery, raw1 stalk35
Sweet corn, boiled½ cup14
Cucumber½ cup sliced1
Eggplant, cooked1 cup4
Lettuce1 leaf2
Lima beans1 cup5
Mushrooms, cooked or raw½ cup1-2
Mustard greens½ cup12
Onion½ cup2-3
Peas1 cup4
Potato, baked17
Spinach, raw½ cup22
Spinach, cooked½ cup63
Sweet  potato, small112
Tomato, medium111
Tomato juice, canned¾ cup660


FoodServing SizeSodium Content (mg)
Apple, medium11
Apple, juice1 cup7
Apricots, medium31
Apricots, dried10 halves3
Banana, medium11
Cantaloup½ cup14
Dates, medium102
Grapes1 cup2
Grape juice1 cup7
Grapefruit, medium½0
 Grapefruit juice1 cup3
Orange, medium11
Orange juice1 cup2
Prunes, dried103
Raisins⅓ cup6
Strawberries½ cup2
watermelon1 cup3




FoodServing SizeSodium Content (mg)
Yogurt, plain1 cup115
Swiss cheese1 oz75
American cheese1 oz443
Cottage cheese, low-fat1 cup918
Cheddar1 oz175
Milk, whole3 oz120
Milk, skim1 cup125

Grains & Breads

FoodServing SizeSodium Content (mg)
Bran flakes¾ cup220
Whole wheat bread1 slice159
White bread1 slice123
Hamburger bun1241
Instant cereal1 packet250
Cornflakes1 cup290
English muffin1/2182
Pancakes1, 7-inch431
White rice, long grain1 cup4
Spaghetti1 cup7


FoodServing SizeSodium Content (mg)
Canned soup1 cup600-1300
Cannen / frozen main dishes8 oz500-2570

So, you see, a lot of fresh produce is lower in sodium as compared to canned and frozen ones. If you are not sure how to get the required sodium without overdoing it, take a look at the next section.

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Low-Sodium Diet – What And How Much To Eat

Low-Sodium Diet – What And How Much To Eat pinit button

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Vegetables And Fruits

  • 5 servings of 4-5 different types of vegetables per day
  • 3 servings of 3 different fruits per day
  • ½ cup of chopped fruit per serving
  • 1 chopped, frozen, or cooked vegetable per serving
  • You may consume 1 serving of low-sodium tomato sauce.


  • A serving of protein with every meal
  • You may consume 2-3 ounces of fish, shrimp, or chicken per day.
  • You may consume ½ cup of low-sodium canned fish.
  • You may consume 1 egg.
  • ½ cup cooked legumes per day


  • 1-2 servings of dairy per day
  • 1 cup milk per day
  • 2-3 oz low-sodium cheese per day
  • ½ cup cottage cheese per day
  • 1 cup soy milk

Grains And Breads

  • 1 slice of low-sodium bread per day
  • 1 low-sodium bagel per day
  • ½ cup rice per day
  • 1 serving of low-sodium crackers per day

Fats, Oils, And Condiments

  • Vinegar
  • Lime juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Herbs and spices
  • Rice bran oil, olive oil, and avocado oil
  • Low-sodium butter
  • Low-sodium salad dressing
  • Low-sodium soup
  • Low-sodium mustard
  • Low-sodium sauces

Snacks And Sweets

  • ½ cup low-sodium potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, and other snacks
  • 2.5 oz unsalted nuts
  • 1 tablespoon jelly
  • 8-10 jelly beans

Now, let me take you through a sample low-sodium diet.

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Low-Sodium Diet Chart

MealsWhat To Eat
Early morning
(7:30 a.m.)
1 cup water with juice of half a lime
(8:30 a.m.)
1 boiled egg + 1 bread + 1 cup low-fat milk
(11:00 a.m.)
4 almonds + 1 cup green tea Or Freshly pressed fruit juice
(12:30-1:00 p.m.)
Mushroom and tofu salad with vinegar, olive oil, and mustard dressing
(3:30 p.m.)
2 low-sodium crackers and 1 cup herbal tea
(6:30 p.m.)
1 medium bowl of homemade chicken clear soup (do not use chicken broth cubes) with veggies

So, what happens when you go out to eat? Do you toss your low-sodium diet out the window? No. Here are “eating-out strategies” to your rescue. Scroll down.

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What To Choose While Eating At A Restaurant

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Here’s what you’ve got to choose while eating at a restaurant:


  • Avoid soups or broths.
  • Avoid bread baskets.
  • Have fresh fruits or a glass of freshly pressed fruit juice.


  • Consume garden-fresh salads.
  • Avoid consuming kimchi, pickled veggies, and sauerkraut.
  • Request the chef to make “light-dressing” instead of using a concoction of high-sodium sauces.
  • Choose broiled, grilled, or roasted poultry, fish, and shellfish.
  • Request the chef to cook without garlic salt, lime salt, and onion salt.
  • Avoid going to buffets.
  • Avoid fast-food joints.
  • Avoid consuming casseroles and one-pot dishes.


  • Choose fresh fruits with ice cream or gelatin.
  • Choose low-sodium cakes.

When you are on a low-sodium diet, you also have to change your lifestyle. Here are a few lifestyle changes that you must make.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Stick to your low-sodium diet plan.
  • Avoid eating out as much as possible.
  • Take your medicines regularly.
  • Workout regularly with your doctor’s permission.
  • Take less stress, practice yoga, and learn a new skill.

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A low-sodium diet will help improve your health in innumerable ways. And you will start to experience the difference in just a few days. So, give it your best shot and live a happier life. Cheers!


  1. Sodium” PubChem. National Centre for Biotechnology Information.
  2. Sodium” Advances in nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Sodium Intake and Health Outcomes” Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence.
  5. Dietary Salt Intake and Hypertension” Electrolyte Blood Press, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Why Should I Limit Sodium?” American Heart Association.
  7. Sodium intake and cardiovascular health.”Circulation research, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Salt intake and kidney disease.”Journal of nephrology, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. Dietary sodium intake and overweight and obesity in children and adults: a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis” Systematic reviews, US National Library of Medicine.
  10. High salt intake causes leptin resistance and obesity in mice by stimulating endogenous fructose production and metabolism.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. Associations of sodium intake with obesity, metabolic disorder, and albuminuria according to age” PLOSOne.
  12. High salt induced hypertension leads to cognitive defect” Oncotarget, US National Library of Medicine.
  13. High-salt diet enhances hippocampal oxidative stress and cognitive impairment in mice.” Neurobiology of learning and memory, US National Library of Medicine.
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