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Excessive sodium is considered a contributory factor in hypertension. When the fluid balance is upset and sodium and fluid collect in body tissue, causing edema, extra pressure is placed on the blood vessels, thus resulting to hypertension.

A sodium-restricted diet is frequently prescribed for clients with hypertension. It is a regular diet in which the amount of sodium is limited. It is used to alleviate edema and hypertension. Sodium is found in food, water, and medicine. It is impossible to have a diet totally free of sodium. Meats fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs all contain substantial amounts of sodium naturally. Cereals, vegetables, fruits, and fats contain small amount of sodium naturally. Water contains varying amount of sodium.

Foods permitted on most sodium-restricted diets

  • Fruit juices without additives
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables (except for those on the avoid list below)
  • Dried peas or beans
  • Fat-free milk
  • Puffed-type cereals
  • Regular, cooked cereals without added salt, sugar, or flavorings
  • Plain pasta
  • Rice
  • Unsalted, uncoated popcorn
  • Fresh fish
  • Fresh unsalted meats
  • Unsalted margarine
  • Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Spices containing no salt, herbs, lemon juice
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Hard candy
  • Jams, jellies, honey
  • Coffee, tea

Foods to limit or avoid

  • Tomato juice and vegetable cocktail
  • Canned vegetables
  • Sauerkraut
  • Frozen vegetables if prepared with salt
  • Dried, breaded, smoked, or canned fish or meats
  • Cheeses; salted butter or margarine
  • Salt-topped crackers or breads
  • Salty foods such as potato chips, salted nuts, peanut butter, pretzels
  • Canned fish, meats, or soups
  • Ham, salt pork, corned beef, lunch meats
  • Prepared relishes, salad dressings, catsup, soy sauce
  • Bouillon, baking soda, baking powder, MSG
  • Commercially prepared meals
  • Fast foods

When the sodium content in the diet is reduced, the water and salts in the tissues flow back into the blood to be excreted by the kidneys. In this way, the edema is relieved. By maintaining one’s weight and activities at a healthy level, limiting salt and fat intake, and avoiding smoking, one reduces the risk of heart disease.