What Is a Low-Sodium Diet?

A low-sodium diet restricts the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet. On this diet, you should aim to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. This is the amount in about one teaspoon of table salt.

Sodium is a mineral found in many foods. Most people consume much more sodium than they need. Diets high in sodium can increase blood pressure. A high-sodium diet may increase your risk of stroke . Reducing your sodium intake may help lower blood pressure.

What Foods Are Highest in Sodium?

Foods highest in sodium include table salt (about 50% sodium), convenience foods, preserved foods, and processed foods. Examples of processed foods include:

    
  • Canned foods
  • Frozen dinners
  • Snack food
  • Packaged starchy foods (eg, seasoned rice, instant mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese)
  • Baking mixes
  • Deli meats and cheeses
  • Sausages and cured or smoked meats
  • Food Choices on a Low-Sodium Diet

    Grains

    Recommended foods:

        
  • Breads and rolls without salted tops
  • Ready-to-eat and uncooked cereals (with less than 5% Daily Value [DV] for sodium)
  • Muffins
  • Unsalted crackers and breadsticks
  • Low-sodium or homemade breadcrumbs or stuffing
  • Rice, pasta, bulgur, couscous (prepared without salt)
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • Breads, rolls, and crackers with salted tops
  • Quick breads, self-rising flour, and biscuit mixes
  • Regular bread crumbs
  • Instant hot cereals
  • Commercially prepared rice, pasta, or stuffing mixes
  • Vegetables

    Recommended foods:

        
  • All fresh vegetables
  • Frozen and canned vegetables without added salt
  • Low-sodium vegetable juices
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • Regular canned vegetables and juices
  • Sauerkraut
  • Frozen vegetables with sauces
  • Commercially prepared potato and vegetable mixes
  • Fruits

    Recommended foods:

        
  • Fresh, frozen, and canned juices
  • Fruit juices
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • None
  • Milk

    Recommended foods:

        
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Hard cheeses (including Swiss, cheddar, and Monterey Jack)
  • Low-sodium cheeses (including ricotta, cream cheese, and mozzarella)
  • Ice cream
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • Processed cheese, cottage cheese, cheese spreads, and sauces
  • Buttermilk
  • Meats and Beans

    Recommended foods:

        
  • Fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, and shellfish
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Low-sodium peanut butter
  • Dried peas and beans
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • Smoked, cured, salted, or canned meat, fish, or poultry (including bacon, cold cuts, frankfurters, sausages, sardines, and anchovies)
  • Frozen, breaded meats
  • Salted nuts
  • Fats and Oils

    Recommended foods:

        
  • Low-sodium or unsalted butter and margarine spreads
  • Low-sodium salad dressings made with oil
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • Oil mixed with other, high-sodium ingredients (eg, salad dressing)
  • Snacks, Sweets, and Condiments

    Recommended foods:

        
  • Low-sodium or unsalted versions of broths, soups, soy sauce, condiments, and snack foods
  • Pepper, herbs, spices, vinegar, lemon, or lime juice
  • Ice cream, sherbet, homemade pie, and pudding without added salt
  • Foods to avoid:

        
  • Broth, soups, gravies, and sauces made from instant mixes or other high-sodium ingredients
  • Salted snack foods
  • Olives
  • Meat tenderizers, seasoning salt, and most flavored vinegars
  • Commercial dessert mixes, cake, pie, instant pudding
  • Beverages

    Recommended beverages:

        
  • Most beverages
  • Beverages to avoid:

        
  • Commercially softened water
  • Suggestions

        
  • Include a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. Whenever possible, choose whole foods over processed foods.
  • Read food labels. Look for products marked as:     
  • Sodium-free
  • Very low-sodium
  • Low-sodium
  • No added salt
  • Unsalted
  • Skip the salt when cooking or at the table. If food needs more flavor, be creative. Try different herbs and spices. Garlic and onion also add a lot of flavor to foods.
  • Avoid fast food and convenience food. They generally have a lot of added salt.
  • Talk to a registered dietitian for individualized diet advice.