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Limiting Sodium for Kidney Disease
Learn how you may benefit from reducing the amount of salt and sodium you consume.

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Limiting Sodium for Kidney Disease

Your body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume. Your muscles and nerves need sodium to work properly. However, if your kidneys aren't healthy, extra sodium and fluid can build up in your body. This can cause swollen hands and feet, a rise in blood pressure, shortness of breath, and fluid build-up around your heart and lungs.

If you have kidney disease, you can benefit by consuming less sodium and salt. Experts recommend that people with kidney disease lower their sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams a day. Other groups included in this recommendation are people who are 51 or older, are African American or who have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Most of the salt and salt additives people eat come from prepared foods. So you do have some control in the amount of sodium you take in. Here are some tips to help you stay within your daily sodium limit:

Limit using salt in your kitchen

  • Stock up on fresh foods when you shop
  • Cook from scratch when you can
  • For a flavor boost, try adding herbs, pepper, garlic, lemon juice, lime juice or vinegars instead of salt

Avoid high-sodium foods
Learn which foods contain a lot of salt, so you can avoid them. Always read labels carefully to check for sodium in its many forms, including sodium sulfite, benzoate, bicarbonate, phosphate and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Sodium is added to many foods and even some over-the-counter medicines. Examples of high-sodium foods are:

  • Seasonings. Those include soy sauce, bouillon, steak sauce and barbecue sauce
  • Processed foods. Those include canned soups, salad dressings, frozen prepared foods, tomato sauce and canned beans
  • Processed, smoked and cured meats. Those include lunch meats such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon and ham
  • Snack foods. Those include crackers, chips, salted nuts, pretzels and olives
  • Most fast foods

Other ideas to help you cut back on sodium

  • Aim to eat foods that are good for your heart, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, beans and low-fat dairy. Rinse and drain canned beans, meats, vegetables and fish to remove extra sodium.
  • When you shop, try lower-sodium versions of frozen dinners and other convenience foods. Look for prepared foods labeled "salt-free," "low sodium" or "no salt added." Always check to see how much sodium is in a serving.
  • Get a low-salt cookbook and try different ways to make your favorite dishes.

Healthy hints for when you eat out

  • Ask to have your food prepared without salt or MSG.
  • Choose steamed, grilled, broiled or boiled foods.
  • Avoid foods with breading, which often contains a lot of salt.
  • Ask for sauces, dressing and condiments to be served on the side and use only small amounts.
  • Choose steamed instead of fried rice.

Eating healthy and limiting sodium can be a challenge, but it can also be a fun, creative process. The result can help you have a healthier body with fewer complications from kidney disease.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer
Created on 02/20/2008
Updated on 08/21/2013
  • National Kidney Disease Education Program. Keep your kidneys healthy.
  • National Kidney Disease Education Program. Sodium: Tips for people with chronic kidney disease.
  • National Kidney Disease Education Program. Living with kidney disease: diet and lifestyle changes.
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