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Sodium

Eating on the run? Download this handy guide Lower-sodium Fast Food Options.

Your body needs sodium for healthy nerves and to balance fluid levels. Less than 1,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day is needed to do these tasks. But most of us take in more than 5,000 mg per day!

Salt is the most common source of sodium in our foods. It is the second most common additive in processed food today, and is the main way we get sodium. As much as 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from salt added to foods by manufacturers. The bottom line: most of us like salty flavors. Sodium enhances the flavors of foods, and many of us eat far too much salt because of this.

Diets high in sodium put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Visit our Recipe Center to discover new and flavorful foods to add to your diet. If you have diabetes, you have an even higher risk of heart disease and stroke - especially if you have high blood pressure. Eating less salt will help you reduce those risks and stay healthier.

Sodium acts like a magnet to attract fluid. It makes you thirsty, and it holds extra fluid in your body like a sponge. Many people on dialysis struggle with thirst - but learning to eat less salt can help a lot. Read about one dialysis patient’s experience:

“I started having a problem a year before dialysis. My body was hanging on to sodium, which made me very thirsty, and I had problems with edema. I’m now on dialysis and watch my sodium very carefully, and it helps a lot. I prepare simply made foods from scratch, so I have complete control over what I put in my mouth. It’s surprising the amount of hidden sodium in processed foods! This is a short list of things that have been banned from my pantry: buttermilk baking mix, canned soups, dry soup mixes, any mix that ends in ‘Helper’, tomato and vegetable juices, and snack foods such as chips and pretzels with salt.”

A diet high in sodium may also cause headaches and make you feel sluggish. If you do peritoneal dialysis (PD), you may be able to have 3,000 to 4,000 mg/day of sodium. If you do in-center hemodialysis (HD), this treatment does not remove all of the extra fluid that is inside of and between your cells. So you will need to limit sodium to just 1,200 to 2,000 mg/day if you choose this treatment option. Ask your doctor and dietitian to be sure. They will help you to learn how much sodium you can have each day.

The good news is that most people get used to eating less salt in a few weeks- and say that food tastes better without it. You can taste the real flavor of the food, not just the taste of salt.

Diabetes And Sodium

A diet high in sodium may also cause headaches and make you feel sluggish. If you do peritoneal dialysis (PD), you may be able to have 3,000 to 4,000 mg/day of sodium. If you do in-center hemodialysis (HD), this treatment does not remove all of the extra fluid that is inside of and between your cells. So you will need to limit sodium to just 1,200 to 2,000 mg/day if you choose this treatment option. Ask your doctor and dietitian to be sure. They will help you to learn how much sodium you can have each day.

The good news for kidney dialysis patients is that most people get used to eating less salt in a few weeks - and say that food tastes better without it. You can taste the real flavor of the food, not just the taste of salt.

Tips For Lowering Your Sodium

Here are some ideas for eating less sodium. Choose the ones that look like they might work for you:

  • Read all food labels! Packaged foods must list how much sodium is in each serving.
  • Some foods don’t taste salty - but have a lot of sodium. A low sodium product has less than 140 mg per serving. Choose a cereal that has less than 280 mg of sodium per serving and TV dinners that have less than 600 mg of sodium per dinner.
  • Cook without salt. One teaspoon of salt has 2,130 mg of sodium!
  • Limit processed foods like microwave dinners, canned foods, seasoning packets, hard cheeses, pickles and olives, hot dogs, and other deli meats.
  • Avoid salt substitutes. Most use potassium instead of sodium, and potassium is also limited in a kidney meal plan.
  • Read over-the-counter drug labels. Some have lots of sodium.
  • Use herbs and spices to flavor food. Rub the herbs in your hands to release more flavor, and increase the amounts you use. Garlic powder (not garlic salt) works very well.
  • Use vinegar and lemon juice to flavor food instead of salt.

Surprising Sources Of High Sodium

Sometimes foods we don’t even think of as salty can have high amounts of sodium. Here are a few high-sodium foods you may not have thought of:

Food Sodium Serving Size
Spinach Souffle 770 mg 1 cup
2% fat cottage cheese 746 mg 1 cup
Pancakes (dry mix)
576 mg 3 pancakes
Natural GoodnessTM 
Chicken Broth 
(33% less sodium)
 570 mg  1 cup

And be sure to download our list of Lower-sodium Fast Food Options.

 

Content from Kidney School, a program of the Medical Education Institute, Inc..

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