Some of the important factors when deciding which diet to follow are your health and your weight. If you have certain health concerns, you should choose a diet that addresses them. If you want to lose weight, your diet should aim to reduce calories. Sodium and cholesterol are nutrients that may be involved in chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. A low-sodium, low-calorie, low-cholesterol diet may help you lose weight and reduce your risk for some chronic diseases.
Most dietary sodium comes from sodium chloride, or salt. According to the Mayo Clinic, sodium is an essential nutrient, but many people eat more than they need. Too much sodium may increase blood pressure and lead to stroke. Sources of dietary sodium include salt that you add at the table, salt in recipes and sodium that is already present in foods you buy. High-sodium foods include processed foods like pickles and olives. Foods that naturally are high in sodium include meats and cheeses. Lower sodium choices include many unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Calories are a unit of energy, and they fuel your body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that you must eat fewer calories than you burn in order to lose weight. A low-calorie diet restricts calorie intake and promotes weight loss. Processed foods that are high in sugar and fat are usually high in calories, too. To follow a low-calorie diet, you can choose lower calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables, fat-free dairy products, and lean protein like egg whites. In addition, you can reduce your portion sizes.
According to the American Heart Association, high blood levels of total or LDL (bad) cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. LDL cholesterol can clog arteries and lead to a heart attack. Your body can produce cholesterol, and cholesterol also comes from food. The recommendation for dietary cholesterol intake is to stay under 300mg per day. Only animal products contain cholesterol. Plants are not capable of producing cholesterol, and vegetarian foods do not have cholesterol. A low-cholesterol diet would probably minimize animal foods and emphasize vegetarian foods. A low-cholesterol diet does not guarantee decreases in blood cholesterol levels because genetic and other dietary factors also influence blood levels.
You can use nutrition labels to help you follow a low-sodium, low-calorie, low-cholesterol diet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that nutrition labels on food packages display the quantities of each of these three nutrients. Labels show the number of calories per serving. For cholesterol and sodium, labels show the percent daily value and the number of milligrams per serving. Be sure that you know the serving size to which the values on the nutrition label are referring to. Sometimes the serving size on the label is smaller than what you expect, and the sodium, calorie and cholesterol counts for what you actually eat are higher than the values on the label.
You can make healthier foods choices to help you maintain a low-sodium, low-calorie, low-cholesterol diet. The CDC recommends choosing a variety of fresh foods to prevent boredom and increase the overall nutrition in your diet. To avoid feeling deprived of comfort foods, you can make healthy ingredient substitutions in recipes. For example, if you make macaroni and cheese with fat-free soy milk instead of butter, you will decrease the sodium, calories and cholesterol.