If you’re taking steps to reduce your sodium intake, your heart will thank you down the road. A high-sodium diet is a risk factor for high blood pressure, a condition that affects as many women as men, according to the American Heart Association. Fresh vegetables are low in sodium, but food processing and preparation can add extra sodium to these naturally healthy foods.
Benefits of Vegetables
Fresh from the farm, vegetables are low in sodium and a rich source of potassium, an essential mineral for fluid balance. Potassium complements sodium in your body, because it relaxes blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. According to the Institute of Medicine, all adults should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day, and eating enough veggies can help you meet your daily recommendation. The MyPlate food guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends women consume 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count toward your daily goal.
The Institute of Medicine recommends adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Fresh asparagus, cabbage, corn and snap peas provide less than 10 milligrams of sodium per cup, less than 1 percent of this recommendation. Fresh veggies are healthy foods for low-sodium eaters, but many sauces and salad dressings add extra sodium to your meal. One tablespoon of bottled French dressing contains 214 milligrams of sodium, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce contains 876 milligrams. Make your own low-sodium salad dressing with olive oil, vinegar, basil and garlic powder. For cooked veggies, try adding a tablespoon of peanut oil and a squirt of lemon, lime or orange for flavor.
Most varieties of frozen veggies are low-sodium choices, but there are some notable exceptions. Frozen veggies packaged in sauces often contain an excessive amount of salt. A 3-ounce serving of frozen broccoli with cheese sauce contains 440 milligrams of sodium, 19 percent of the daily recommended intake. Sweet sauces can also be high in sodium. One 3-ounce serving of frozen carrots with a brown-sugar glaze contains 500 milligrams of sodium. Purchase plain frozen veggies and spice them up with low-sodium herbs and spices. Add a teaspoon of chopped garlic and fresh thyme to your frozen broccoli. For a spicy flavor, add a sprinkle of paprika or black pepper to your favorite mixed veggies.
Vegetables are often canned in brine, or salt water, which adds extra sodium to these convenient foods. One cup of canned beets contains 479 milligrams of sodium, and 1 cup of canned creamed corn has 671 milligrams. Look for low-sodium and reduced-sodium varieties to reduce your sodium intake. One cup of regular canned corn contains 384 milligrams of sodium, but the low-sodium version contains only 2 milligrams per cup.
- American Heart Association: High Blood Pressure and Women
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly?
- Texas A+M Agrilife Extension: The Sodium Content of Your Foods
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Soy Sauce Made From Soy and Wheat (Shoyu)
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Oil, Peanut, Salad or Cooking
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.