Low Sodium Diets and Dates

Diet Description

A low sodium diet is very similar to a standard, healthy diet. It only includes the additional goal of lowering the amount of sodium in the diet. The target for a low-sodium diet is having no more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day.  This modified amount isn’t much lower than the daily intake recommendation. For the general population, they must take in about 2,300 mg sodium. This amount is the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt. 

Sodium is a mineral naturally found in some foods. However, it is mostly added to food during cooking or processing. The sodium in American diets comes mostly from processed foods and table salt. This mineral is needed to regulate the fluid balance in the body. It also aids in muscle and nerve function. While it is important to get enough sodium in the diet, too much can be very harmful to your health.

There are many helpful guidelines for following a low-sodium diet. The first one is recognizing sources of sodium in your diet. Reading the nutrition facts label and ingredients on all packaged goods is a good start. It will bring awareness to which foods in your diet are high in sodium. Additionally, you will begin to recognize and avoid high salt ingredients that are added to foods. These include broth, brine, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Eliminating these foods and reducing the amount of salt you’re adding to foods are keys to success. 

Diet Purpose​

There are various reasons why someone may need to follow a low sodium diet. First, we need to understand the relationship between sodium, the fluid in the body, and the parts of the body affected.  The kidneys are responsible for removing sodium from the body. However, if there is too much in the diet, they get overwhelmed and can’t get rid of all of it. The extra sodium is then sent into the blood. This is where it attracts water and increases the blood volume leading to high blood pressure. 

When blood pressure is high, the heart is working harder to pump blood around the body.  Over a long period of time, a diet high in sodium can become very dangerous. It may eventually result in heart disease or stroke. Lowering the amount of sodium in the diet is essential to lowering blood pressure. This will also help prevent other health concerns.

The amount of sodium in the diet also affects the kidneys. Eating a lot of salt can increase your chance of getting a kidney stone down the road. People diagnosed with kidney disease will also need to follow a low sodium diet. This must be done in addition to other dietary changes. Their kidneys are damaged and unable to properly filter sodium. Therefore, it is important to lower the amount of sodium in the diet to prevent high blood pressure. 

Dates in a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Dates are naturally sodium-free. This makes them a healthy addition to a low sodium diet. This fruit is a good source of fiber. It also doesn’t contain any fats or cholesterol. Try using dates in a recipe next time you’re cooking at home.

What to Eat

Once you’ve started reading the nutrition facts labels, you’ll realize that a lot of foods are high in sodium. Don’t fret – there are plenty of foods that meet low sodium requirements and still taste good, too. With the help of these tips and a low sodium foods list, you’ll be off to a good start.

1. Find Low Salt or Reduced Sodium Replacements

Just because something doesn’t taste salty, doesn’t mean it is low sodium! This rule also applies to food claims found on packaged goods.  According to the FDA, packaged foods can use these claims based on the amount of sodium it has. This includes:

LABEL CLAIM

MEANING

Salt/Sodium Free

less than 5 mg sodium per serving

Very Low Sodium 

less than 35 mg sodium per serving

Low Sodium

less than 140 mg sodium per serving

No Salt Added or Unsalted

no added sodium, but there may be naturally-occurring sodium 

Reduced Sodium 

at least 25% less sodium added than original product

Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted 

at least 50% less sodium added than original product

Take caution with the ‘reduced’ and ‘light in sodium’ labels. They are only compared to the original product. This means they may still have high amounts of salt in these products. Aim to choose foods that are low sodium, or less than 140 mg per serving.

2. Replace Salt with Seasonings

Cooking foods without added salt doesn’t mean it has to be bland! Making a habit of planning meals at home can greatly reduce the amount of sodium you’re eating.  Use fresh herbs, spices, or a salt substitute to season foods instead of salt. Once you’re stocked up on spices, it will be even easier to follow recipes on the fly without making a trip to the store. 

Here is a list of some flavorful seasonings to replace salt:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Dry Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary

3. Other Foods to Eat

There are so many foods to enjoy on a low sodium diet. Give yourself time to try new foods and adjust to a low sodium diet. You’ll find your taste buds will learn to like foods with less salt over time.

Low Sodium Foods to Eat

Protein

Any fresh or frozen meat or fish, no salt added

Eggs and egg substitutes

Low-sodium peanut butter

Dry peas and beans (not canned)

Low-sodium canned fish

Drained or water packed canned fish or poultry

Unflavored tofu

Dairy

Some milks and milk products (yogurt, ice cream)

Plant-based milks 

Low-sodium cheeses, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella

Grains

Low sodium breads

All rice and pasta, no adding salt when cooking

Low-sodium corn and flour tortillas and noodles

Low-sodium crackers or tortilla chips

Unsalted popcorn, chips and pretzels

Fruit & Vegetables

Fresh and frozen vegetables without sauces

Low-sodium canned vegetables, sauces and juices

Fresh potatoes

Low-salt tomato or V-8 juice.

Most fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit

What to Avoid

Eating Out

Food from take-out or at restaurants is typically very high in sodium. This is especially true for fast food. Even ready-to-eat packaged meals at healthy grocery stores may be full of sodium. Limiting the amount you’re eating out will greatly impact the amount of sodium in your diet. Additionally, here’s a list of foods to steer clear of at the grocery store:

High Sodium Foods to Avoid

Protein

Smoked or cured meat, such as bacon, sausages, and ham 

Salted or canned meat, fish or poultry, like sardines and anchovies

Cold cuts or deli meats

Pre-made tofu in sauce or marinade

Frozen plant-based patties

Salted nuts

Dairy

Some milks and milk products (yogurt, ice cream)

Most cheeses, including pre-sliced

Grains

Breads, bagels, tortillas, noodles 

Frozen breaded dinners, such as burritos and pizza

Salted chips, crackers, pretzels, and popcorn

Fruit & Vegetables

Fresh and frozen vegetables with sauces

Canned vegetables, sauces and juices

Salted french fries

Miscellaneous

Frozen and canned, ready-to-eat meals

Soup 

Salted candies

Desserts

Sauces, dips, and salad dressings

Salted coffee beverages

Conclusion

A low sodium diet helps reduce blood pressure and prevent other negative health outcomes. Identifying and removing high sodium foods from your diet is a great way to get started. Additionally, we recommend cooking at home and replacing salt with herbs and spices. Try focusing on having no more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day. This diet can still include a variety of flavorful foods, including dates.

Written by:
Kayla Farrell, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian

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