Diabetics must limit their sodium intake in order to protect against cardiovascular disease. If you have diabetes and need to restrict your sodium intake, focus on eating unprocessed foods, read nutrition labels and limit the amount of salt you add to foods at the table.
How Much Sodium Can Diabetics Have?
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals with diabetes limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day. Note that this amount is far less than 1 teaspoon of table salt; a teaspoon contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium. If you have diabetes, be careful not to exceed 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, especially if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems.
Eat More Unprocessed Foods
Sodium sneaks into foods that are highly processed, because salt serves as a good food preservative and taste enhancer. To reduce sodium in your diet, eat minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and non-canned meats and other proteins. For example, a low-sodium lunch could be carrots and celery sticks, a 3-ounce portion of grilled chicken topped with fresh salsa, a side of strawberries and a small portion of brown rice.
Read Nutrition Labels
If you have diabetes, read nutrition labels to investigate the amount of sodium in a food. Look first at the serving size, which is listed at the top of the label. All of the information that follows pertains to that single serving size. The sodium content is generally listed about halfway down the label. Items without a nutrition label, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are generally low in sodium, but if needed, you can find their nutrition information using online resources, such as the USDA Nutrient Database.
Restrict Table Salt
One teaspoon of table salt contains more than the daily sodium allotment for people with diabetes. Because of this, diabetics are encouraged to avoid sprinkling salt on food at the table. Instead, use other flavorings, such as spice and herbs, to add a kick to foods and beverages. Garlic and onion powders, curry, black pepper, ginger and cinnamon all add zest to food without sacrificing nutritional quality.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Executive Summary
- MayoClinic.com: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- The National Academies Commission to Reduce Sodium Intake, Chapter 4, Preservation and Physical Property Roles of Sodium in Foods
- National Heart, Lungs, and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure -- Read the Food Label
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data Laboratory
- American Heart Association: Shaking the Salt Habit
Dr. Courtney Winston is a registered/licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator and public health educator. She holds a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her doctoral degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Winston was recognized in 2012 with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Emerging Leader in Dietetics Award for the state of California.