Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in many of the foods we eat. Sodium chloride, or salt, is the most common type of sodium found in nature. It's also the type of sodium you'll find in food. Most of our dietary sodium comes from the processing of the foods we eat.
Sodium is needed by your body, but only in small amounts. Sodium is essential for maintaining fluid balance in the body, for transmitting nerve signals, and for helping your muscles contract and relax. Consuming too much sodium, however, can lead to health problems like stroke and heart disease.
The recommended maximum intake of sodium is 2,300 milligrams a day, but those with health conditions like hypertension or cardiovascular disease should consume no more than 1,500. While your body requires just 500 milligrams of sodium per day, the average American consumes more than 3,400.
Why You Should Avoid Sodium
Your kidneys regulate the amount of sodium in your body to maintain optimal health. The kidneys retain sodium when the level in the body is low, while the kidneys eliminate it through urine when body sodium is high.
Taking in too much sodium can lead to it building up in your blood, which puts a strain on your heart and arteries. High sodium in your blood can result in fluid retention and high blood pressure, with the potential for chronic heart and kidney disease later on. High blood pressure can also lead to stroke and heart failure.
Foods With Sodium
Sodium is found in many foods common to the American diet, so it doesn't take much to reach and exceed the maximum safe amount per day. Here are four types of foods you should avoid or eat less of to reduce your intake of dietary sodium.
All canned and packaged soups contain sodium, but the amount varies by type of soup and brand. Soups may have as little as 66 milligrams to as much as 1,880 milligrams per serving. The average amount per can of soup is 410 milligrams, but many brands far exceed this amount.
2. Cottage Cheese
This dairy product has good amounts of protein and phosphorus, but it is high in sodium. Most brands average 300 to 400 milligrams for half a cup of cottage cheese, with some brands reaching 900 milligrams.
3. Frozen Foods
Frozen foods are abundant in excess sodium, even ones marketed as healthy or low-sodium. Some single-serve lasagnas might have 900 milligrams of sodium, while a single slice of pizza could have 700 milligrams or more.
Sauces and condiments can be incredibly high in sodium. Soy sauce contains up to 1,000 milligrams per tablespoon, while barbecue sauce averages 450 milligrams.
Here are several types of foods with lower sodium to help you select healthier options at the grocery store.
1. Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables generally contain low amounts of sodium. For example, a half-cup serving of beets gives you just 65 milligrams of sodium while boosting your health with iron, potassium, and folate. Broccoli has just 15 milligrams of sodium per half-cup, while citrus fruits contain no sodium at all.
2. Brown Rice
A cup of brown rice contains just 10 milligrams of sodium. Eating this food also gives you plenty of fiber, manganese (which supports bone formation), selenium (which plays a major role in metabolism), and several types of phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals that can help prevent disease.
3. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a heart-healthy food due to its rich amount of phytonutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also very low in sodium, with just 0.27 milligrams per tablespoon.