The human body needs sodium, but problems arise when we take in more sodium than we need. Sodium serves an important role in controlling the body’s fluid balance, and maintaining blood volume and pressure. In the right amounts, everything runs smoothly, but taking in too much sodium could raise blood pressure and cause fluid retention. These conditions are demonstrated in the swelling of legs and feet and can lead to severe health issues.
Sodium is found naturally in foods and a lot of salt can be added during the processes of packaging and preparing food. But one of the biggest culprits in America’s high sodium intake problem is our standard table salt. On a whole, we are taking in about 20 times as much sodium as our bodies need.
Whether you have been directed by a health care professional or have simply decided to make better choices about what goes into your body you can utilize these tips and recipes to work your way towards a healthier diet.
Five Low Sodium Diet Tips
- Remove salty foods from your diet and from your house. You won’t drive to the store before every meal to buy salt and this will reduce the amount of salt you use when cooking and eating.
- Look for and make a commitment to buy salt-free or reduced salt products when you can. On the label you will want to look for less than 140 mg of sodium per serving to be considered low sodium. Don’t just check the label on notoriously salty foods, check the labels of all your food for the sneaky salt added to many processed or preserved foods.
- Eating more home cooked meals helps you avoid the extra salt often added to pre-packaged food and lets you take control of your salt intake.
- Use salt substitutes but remember that all substitutes are not created equal. Some use potassium so if you are on a low potassium diet be aware of the ingredients.
- If you do buy salt, leave it in the kitchen sized container it comes in. This forces you to be mindful of how often you go into the cabinet to lug it out and how much you are using when you are cooking. Don’t fill a salt shaker for the table or kitchen and you make it more work than it’s worth to add even more salt to your food.
Low Sodium Recipes Packed with Flavor
Appetizer – Artichoke Dip
Ingredients for 8 servings:
2 cups artichoke hearts
1 tbsp black pepper
4 cups chopped spinach
1 tsp minced thyme
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp minced parsley
1 cup white beans, cooked
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
½ cup low-fat sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix all the ingredients together, put them in a ceramic dish and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with veggies, whole-grain breads or crackers. (71 mg of sodium per serving)
Bread – Apple Corn Muffin
Ingredients for 12 muffins:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup corn kernels
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup fat-free milk
2 egg whites
1 apple, peeled and chopped (Fuji, Gala or Baldwin)
Preheat oven to 425 F and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt until blended evenly. In a separate bowl combine the milk, eggs, chopped apple and corn kernels. Whisk this mix evenly and pour over the flour mixture. Stir gently until dry ingredients are moist but still lumpy. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full and bake 30 minutes. (127 mg of sodium per muffin)
Main Dish – Rotelle Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Black Olive Sauce
Ingredients for 4 servings:
2 cups unsalted vegetable broth
8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat rotelle pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, mashed
½ cup sliced black olives
½ cup chopped parsley
4 tsp Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and drained if bought dry-packed
Heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and broth. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Fill a large pot ¾ full with water and bring to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly when done. Add olives and parsley to the large skillet and mix in evenly. Divide the pasta to four plates and top each serving with ¼ of the sun-dried tomato mixture and 1 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese. (192 mg of sodium per serving)
Side Dish – Roasted Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms
Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups morel or other mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
Zest of one lemon
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl or sealable food bag and toss to coat. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Turn on the broiler of your oven to high and cook for three minutes, turning vegetables over once or until lightly browned. (11 mg of sodium per serving)