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.
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
. Reducing your sodium intake may help lower blood pressure.
Foods highest in sodium include table salt (about 50% sodium), convenience foods, preserved foods, and processed foods. Examples of processed foods include:
Canned foodsFrozen dinnersSnack foodPackaged starchy foods—like seasoned rice, instant mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheeseBaking mixesDeli meats and cheesesSausages and cured or smoked meats
Recommended foods: Breads and rolls without salted topsReady-to-eat and uncooked cereals (with less than 5% Daily Value [DV] for sodium)MuffinsUnsalted crackers and breadsticksLow-sodium or homemade breadcrumbs or stuffingRice, pasta, bulgur, couscous (prepared without salt)
Foods to avoid: Breads, rolls, and crackers with salted topsQuick breads, self-rising flour, and biscuit mixesRegular bread crumbsInstant hot cerealsCommercially prepared rice, pasta, or stuffing mixes
Recommended foods: All fresh vegetablesFrozen and canned vegetables without added saltLow-sodium vegetable juices
Foods to avoid: Regular canned vegetables and juicesSauerkrautFrozen vegetables with saucesCommercially prepared potato and vegetable mixes
Recommended foods: Fresh, frozen, and canned juicesFruit juices
Foods to avoid: None
Recommended foods: MilkYogurtHard cheeses—including Swiss, cheddar, and Monterey JackLow-sodium cheeses—including ricotta, cream cheese, and mozzarellaIce cream
Foods to avoid: Processed cheese, cottage cheese, cheese spreads, and saucesButtermilk
Recommended foods: Fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, and shellfishEggs and egg substitutesLow-sodium peanut butterDried peas and beansUnsalted nuts
Foods to avoid: Smoked, cured, salted, or canned meat, fish, or poultry—including bacon, cold cuts, frankfurters, sausages, sardines, and anchoviesFrozen, breaded meatsSalted nuts
Recommended foods: Low-sodium or unsalted butter and margarine spreadsLow-sodium salad dressings made with oil
Foods to avoid: Oil mixed with other, high-sodium ingredients—like prepared salad dressings
Recommended foods: Low-sodium or unsalted versions of broths, soups, soy sauce, condiments, and snack foodsPepper, herbs, spices, vinegar, lemon, or lime juiceIce 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 ingredientsSalted snack foodsOlivesMeat tenderizers, seasoning salt, and most flavored vinegarsCommercial dessert mixes, cake, pie, instant pudding
Recommended beverages: Most beverages
Beverages to avoid: Commercially softened water
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-freeVery low-sodiumLow-sodiumNo added saltUnsaltedSkip 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.
Guidelines for a low sodium diet. UCSF Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/guidelines_for_a_low_sodium_diet. Accessed May 8, 2014.
How to follow a low-sodium diet. Heart Failure Society of America website. Available at: http://www.hfsa.org/how-to-follow-a-low-sodium-diet. Accessed May 8, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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