Adopting a healthy, low-sodium meal plan can help lower blood pressure and lead to improved cardiovascular health. A balanced low-sodium meal plan allows for foods from every food group, while limiting processed foods and calling for healthier alternatives to salt, MSG and other high-sodium condiments and ingredients. For maximum health benefits, supplement your healthy eating plan with regular exercise.
The goal of a low-sodium diet is to reduce sodium intake to a heart-healthy level. Sodium, in appropriate levels, plays an important role in regulating blood sugar and blood volume, as well as in muscle and nerve health. A low-sodium diet provides a maximum of 2,300mg daily. However, the American Heart Association recommends that your diet contain no more than 1,500mg per day.
Sodium occurs naturally in small amounts in foods, and most dietary sodium is added to foods during processing, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most of the sodium in your diet comes from salt. One teaspoon of salt contains approximately 2,400mg of sodium, which is the case with kosher and sea salt as well, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, or DASH diet, provides menu options for both 2,300mg and 1,500mg sodium levels. For a 2,000-calorie meal plan, the DASH diet includes seven to eight servings of grains, four to five servings of vegetables, four to five servings of fruit, two to three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy, up to two servings of lean meat, poultry or fish, up to one serving of nuts, seeds or dry beans and two to three servings of healthy fats and oils, notes the NHLBI. The DASH diet limits sweets such as jelly, candy and sweetened beverages to five servings per week. Opt for unsalted margarine, low-sodium cheese varieties and other low-sodium condiments, rinse canned foods prior to cooking and season foods with spices rather than salt when cooking, advises NHLBI.
The NHLBI provides one week's worth of low-sodium menus online with exchanges for 2,300mg or 1,500mg total sodium content. The menus are based on a 2,000-calorie DASH diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 also lists serving recommendations for the DASH diet at various caloric levels, starting with a 1,600-calorie meal plan.
The American Heart Association reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Lowering your sodium intake is an important factor in improving cardiovascular health. Dietary recommendations endorsed by the American Heart Association align with those included in the DASH plan at the 1,500mg level.
- MedlinePlus: Low-Salt Diet
- American Heart Association: Healthy Diet Goals
- National Institutes of Health: Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with Dash
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Quick Facts on Salt
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Healthier Eating with DASH
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: A Week With the Dash Eating Plan