Sodium is necessary for your body to function properly, but consuming too much of it in the form of salt can be dangerous. During pregnancy, a low-sodium diet can improve your health and reduce your risk of developing pregnancy complications. It is important to understand how much sodium you need and how you can healthily reduce your intake.
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Consuming a low-sodium diet during pregnancy can reduce your chances of developing hypertension. Hypertension is characterized by high blood pressure and symptoms can include swelling, headaches and fatigue. Consuming too much sodium will cause your body to hold extra water to flush the salt from your body, putting stress and pressure on your blood vessels and your heart. Developing hypertension during pregnancy can cause your baby to have a low birth weight.
According to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., many people eat more sodium than necessary. You only need 200 to 500 mg a day to be healthy and to keep your body operating efficiently. In order to keep from consuming an unhealthy amount of sodium, focus on keeping your intake under 2,400 mg a day.
You can reduce your intake of salt by adding little or no table salt to your meals. Use herbs and spices such as garlic and basil for flavor instead. Drink low-fat dairy instead of whole milk products, which contain more sodium. Focus on eating more fresh foods and lean meats and poultry. Ask for no salt added to your meals in restaurants, and avoid high-sodium products such as bacon, soy sauce, soups and canned and frozen food. Read labels frequently and look for low-sodium varieties of crackers, nuts and chips.
In addition to reducing your intake of sodium, you can also focus on drinking at least eight glasses of water each day to help flush sodium from your body. If you are concerned about your sodium intake or suspect that you are experiencing hypertension, talk to your doctor about treatment options and to get advice on how to further reduce your sodium intake.