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Foods for a Low-Salt Diet

author image Anne Danahy
Anne Danahy is a Boston-based RD/nutritionist who counsels individuals and groups, and writes about healthy eating for wellness and disease management. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Science in food and nutrition from Framingham State University in Massachusetts.
Foods for a Low-Salt Diet
A chicken breast cooking on a charcoal grill. Photo Credit: villagemoon/iStock/Getty Images

The publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" encourages everyone to eat less salt and aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Whole, unprocessed foods are lowest in sodium, while packaged foods are much higher. To eat a low-salt diet, choose most foods from the perimeter of the grocery store, where whole foods are found, and limit purchases of more processed foods that line the grocery store aisles.

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Focus on Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are good choices for anyone trying to reduce salt in his diet. Not only are they naturally low in sodium, but they are also high in potassium, which can help to lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Frozen fruits and plain frozen vegetables without sauces or added salt are also good choices and often just as nutritious as fresh. In addition, canned vegetables can be part of a healthy diet as long as you choose those labeled as no added salt.

Cook Meats Yourself

Meats, poultry and fish are naturally low in sodium and usually good choices for a low-salt diet. Always check the label, though, because some raw meats have a sodium-based broth mixture added to enhance flavor, moisture and texture. When cooking meats, make sure to use seasonings like herbs, garlic or onion -- rather than salt -- to add flavor. While meat, poultry or fish that you cook yourself is usually low in sodium, prepared meats like rotisserie chicken and most deli meats and canned fish like tuna or salmon can be much higher in added salt. Check the food labels on any canned or packaged meats or fish, or ask for lower-sodium deli meats.

Watch Out for Cheese

Whole dairy foods like milk and yogurt are good low-sodium choices. Most cheese, however, has added salt and can range from moderate to high in sodium. Hard cheeses like cheddar or Swiss usually have less salt. Processed cheese like American and soft cheeses like cottage cheese or cheese spreads are usually highest in salt.

Read the Food Labels

When buying any packaged food, read the label for added salt or sodium. Avoid foods that list salt near the top of the list of ingredients, and try to choose foods with less than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving. Most people get excess amounts of sodium from packaged foods like crackers, chips, pretzels, popcorn and even baking mixes, along with some packaged breads, cookies and cakes. Pickles and pickled vegetables like sauerkraut and olives are also very high in added salt and should be limited on a low-salt diet. Most bottled salad dressings and seasonings like soy or Worcestershire sauce contain high amounts of sodium, so use oil and vinegar to make your own dressing and fresh or dried herb mixes to season foods.

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