Join CMSS for our 2024 Fall Benefit

Thursday, September 12, 2024

Lowering Your Sodium Intake

As we age, most of us must change our diets to stay healthy. One of the most common dietary suggestions doctors and nutritionists give the elderly is to lower sodium intake. Lowering the amount of sodium you consume is not the hardest task in the world, but it certainly is not the easiest. We are a fast-moving society, and we often find it difficult to take the necessary time to prepare healthy, well-balanced meals. Sodium is lurking inside most foods, but with a little knowledge and a quick glance of the nutritional label, lowering your sodium intake can be a breeze.

What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral and is commonly consumed in the form of table salt – which is 40% pure sodium. Salt is not the only culprit; packaged and processed foods are notoriously high in sodium. On average, we need about 250 milligrams of sodium daily. Two hundred-fifty milligrams may seem like a lot, but the milligrams add up quickly after you take into account that most unprocessed foods contain small amounts of natural sodium. Studies show that an average American consumes between 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day – about 20 times more than the recommended amount. If you are watching your intake, read labels at the grocery store, look for low sodium options, ask to see nutritional information when out at a restaurant and keep this one fact in mind:

1 teaspoon of salt = 2400 milligrams of sodium

Sodium and health issues

By consuming too much sodium daily, we put ourselves at risk for a range of health issues. High blood pressure is the most common result of excessive sodium consumption. Whether high blood pressure runs in the family or is a new issue you are dealing with, cutting sodium intake is one big step you can take to stabilize your condition. Kidney disease, fluid retention, swelling of the feet and hands and stroke are other possible effects of over salting. Even if you haven’t paid attention to your sodium intake until now – and regardless of whether you’re dealing with a health issue – cutting down on salt is a great way to lead a healthy life.

High sodium foods

Because sodium is quite common, it is of the utmost importance to read the labels on all food you buy. Below are some of the more traditionally high sodium foods out there:

  • Salt
  • Soy sauce and salad dressings
  • Cured meats: salami, bacon
  • Cheese
  • Pretzels, chips, crackers
  • Fast food
  • Canned sauce, soup, vegetables
  • Pickled foods: pickles, olives

Low sodium foods

It’s virtually impossible to cut out sodium all together, but you can try incorporating more unprocessed foods, lean meats, and low fat dairy to your diet to keep sodium intake to a bare minimum. Here are a few examples of low sodium options:

  • Sea salt
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Frozen vegetables without sauce
  • Canned fruit packed in water or 100% juice
  • Unsalted popcorn
  • Rice or pasta
  • Skinless chicken or turkey breast
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk


Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

Recent Posts