Healthy Low Sodium FoodsFoods which contain low levels of Sodium
Sodium is an important part of our diet but it has had a bad press and is generally thought of as something to avoid. This is with good reason, as it is easy to consume too much sodium and this can lead to a number of health issues. Hence this page is rather different from others on this site as it covers low sodium foods as well as listing those that are high in sodium. We therefore have two lists, for high and low sodium foods respectively so you can see which foods to seek out as well as those that are better avoided. We have also provided an explanation as to what sodium is and the role this mineral plays in our diets.
What is sodium?
So what is sodium? Sodium is a chemical element and one of the essential minerals that our bodies need a regular amount of along with others such as calcium and magnesium. It is unusual for several reasons, firstly because many people consume too much sodium rather than too little. Secondly, it is almost always found as part of Sodium chloride, better known as table salt.
Sodium chloride is approximately 40% Sodium and 60% chlorine, which is also essential to human health in small quantities. As well as being a common kitchen ingredient, salt is added to almost all standard processed foods, so we have included a section on low-sodium processed foods so you can see the options available for low sodium foods of this kind. One thing to be aware of is that while many food labels list the sodium content of foods, because the sodium appears in the form of sodium chloride, the salt content will be 2.5 times greater than the sodium content listed. Therefore it is very easy to think you are consuming less sodium than you really are.
The role low sodium foods play in our diet
Firstly, it is important to remember that we need a certain amount of Sodium in our diets. It is estimated that on average 500 mg of sodium per day is needed simply to sustain life. Historically, it has been estimated that humans in the Palaeolithic period consumed around 750 mg daily, and of course no extra salt was added to their food as table salt didn’t exist thousands of years ago! However, in modern times the average person in the developed world is believed to consume upwards of 3,000 mg of sodium per day (7,500 mg or 7.5 g of salt) which is really not healthy.
Many health organisations urge much lower levels of sodium intake. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises adults should consume less than 1500 mg of sodium per day whilst in the UK the NHS advises under 2400 mg of sodium. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium which replaces the average amount lost daily through sweat and urination.
- 1500 mg (1.5 g) Adults
- 1300 mg (1.3 g) Adults over 50
- 1500 mg (1.5 g) Children 9-18 years
- 1200 mg (1.2 g) Children 4-8 years
- 1000 mg (1.0 g) Toddler 1-3 years
- 370 mg (0.37 g) Infants 7-12 months
- 120 mg (0.12 g) Infants 0-6 months
Benefits of sodium in the diet:
- The average adult has around 100 g of Sodium in their body, which cannot function without it.
- Almost all the body’s sodium is found in the blood and lymph fluid.
- Its main function is to maintain the fluid balance within the body and across cell membranes.
- Sodium is critical for nerve transmission, muscular contraction and many other functions.
- It maintains cardiovascular function.
High Sodium risks
Most of us know that too much sodium is bad for you, but not necessarily the reasons why we should avoid eating too many foods high in sodium. The health risks of consuming too much sodium are as follows:
- High blood pressure
- Increased water retention
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Aches and pains, including headaches
- Skin conditions
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
Low Sodium FoodsLists of foods containing low amounts of sodium
As with most things occasional foods high in sodium are fine in moderation but should not be eaten to excess. Turning to low sodium foods to reduce your sodium intake is a great way to improve your health or prevent negative effects altogether. Here we have a list of low sodium foods for you to include in your diet if you want to consciously make an effort to reduce or regulate your sodium intake. Many of these foods contain no sodium at all in their natural state. It is also worth mentioning that herbs and spices can be used as flavourings instead of salt as a simple and tasty way to maintain a low sodium diet.
We have also included a list of processed foods that have low or reduced sodium varieties so you can keep an eye out for them when you are shopping. As people become more and more health conscious it seems likely that more low sodium foods will appear on the market, offering an ever greater choice.
Low sodium foods
All amounts of sodium are per 100 g (3.5 oz). Foods highlighted in bold can be used as flavourings in cooking to replace table salt.
- Apples, with skin – 1 mg
- Asparagus, cooked – 14 mg
- Avocado – 7 mg
- Basil, fresh – 4mg
- Bananas – 1 mg
- Blackberries – 1 mg
- Blueberries – 1 mg
- Carrots, cooked – 58 mg
- Celery, raw – 80 mg
- Cherries, sweet – 0 mg
- Chicken breast, roasted – 71 mg
- Chives – 3 mg
- Cornflour – 5 mg
- Cranberries, dried, sweetened – 3 mg
- Cucumber – 2 mg
- Egg noodles, cooked – 5 mg
- Figs, dried – 10 mg
- Grapefruit – 0 mg
- Hazelnuts – 0 mg
- Honey – 4 mg
- Lettuce, iceberg – 10 mg
- Macadamia nuts, raw – 5 mg
- Macaroni, cooked – 1 mg
- Melon, honeydew – 18 mg
- Mustard seed, yellow – 5 mg
- Nectarines – 0 mg
- Oats – 2 mg
- Onions – 4 mg
- Oranges – 0 mg
- Orange juice, from concentrate – 1 mg
- Parsley, raw – 56 mg
- Parsnips, boiled – 10 mg
- Peaches 0 mg
- Peas, raw – 5 mg
- Peas and carrots, canned, no added salt – 3 mg
- Pepper, white – 5 mg
- Pine nuts, dried – 2 mg
- Pineapple, canned – 1 mg
- Pineapple, fresh – 1 mg
- Plums – 0 mg
- Potato, baked, plain – 7 mg
- Pumpkin – 1 mg
- Raisins, seeded – 28 mg
- Spaghetti, cooked – 1 mg
- Spinach, cooked – 70 mg
- Strawberries – 1 mg
- Sweet peppers – 4 mg
- Tomato, cooked – 11 mg
- Tomato, raw – 5 mg
- Vinegar, distilled – 2 mg
- Vinegar, cider – 5 mg
- Watercress, raw – 41 mg
- White rice, cooked – 0 mg
- Wheat flour – 2 mg
Commercially produced low sodium foods
- Unsalted/low sodium butter
- Breakfast cereals
- Unsalted chips/crisps
- Low salt baked beans
- Reduced sodium fish fillets
- Low sodium steaks
- Reduced or low sodium condiments and sauces
- Low sodium canned foods
- Low sodium ready/tv meals
- Reduced or low sodium biscuits
High Sodium FoodsLists of foods containing high amounts of sodium
In this section we will provide you with a high sodium foods list to help you to recognise foods to avoid or to consume in moderation if you want to reduce your sodium intake or are on a low sodium diet. All amounts are per 100 g (3.5 oz):
- Table salt – 38758 mg (38.8 g) per 100 g
- Stock cubes (average) – 24000 mg (24g)
- Soy sauce – 6820 mg (6.8g)
- Marmite (yeast extract) – 2962 mg (3 g)
- Bacon, cooked – 2193 mg (2.2 g)
- Cheese, roquefort – 1809 mg
- Ham 1203 mg
- Cheese, parmesan – 1529 mg
- Caviar – 1500 mg
- Cheese, American – 1671 mg
- Cheese, feta – 1116 mg
- Popcorn , flavoured 1058 mg
- Corned Beef 973 mg
- Margarine – 943 mg
- Cheese, camembert – 842 mg
- Butter – up to 800 mg
- Tomato soup, canned -700 mg
- Pickled foods – Pickled eggs and onions for example
- Sauces and seasonings – e.g. BBQ sauce, garlic salt and seasonings used to tenderise meat
- Instant foods – e.g. Pot noodles, microwaved and TV dinners
- Many canned foods -be sure to read the label for sodium content. More than 600 mg (0.6 g) of sodium is high.
Low sodium symptoms
Finally, while it is rare to suffer from low sodium levels, a condition called hyponatremia can occur. The symptoms aren’t very specific but can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscle spasms and seizures, and changes to a person’s mental state. Severe hyponatremia can lead to coma and can be fatal. The most common cause of this rare condition is drinking too much water, either during strenuous exercise or as a result of taking non-prescription drugs that cause extreme thirst. Chronic conditions including kidney failure and congestive heart failure can also cause low sodium levels. In this case treatment is likely to involve intravenous (IV or drip) fluids and electrolytes under the direct supervision of healthcare professionals.