Cutting Down on Salt

Less Salt Helps Prevent Diabetes Complications

low sodium diet

It's important that people with diabetes lower salt intake, as all too often diabetes is complicated by high blood pressure, a major cause of both heart disease and stroke.  Here's how to cut back on salt—without cutting back on flavor—for people with diabetes.

How Much is Too Much?

We're not suggesting that you banish salt from your diet. The components of salt, sodium and chloride, are essential nutrients, and with potassium, they are the main regulators of the body's water-balance system.

The average person in the United States consumes 1 tablespoon of salt a day, which is about 20 times the amount of sodium really needed. The American Diabetes Association recommends 2,300 mg of sodium or less as a maximum daily intake for people with diabetes. That is roughly equivalent to one teaspoon of salt. If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), your healthcare provider may suggest even less.

Check with your diabetes health care team for their recommendations for you.

We're fortunate that many food manufacturers are recognizing the public's growing concern about salt and have begun to offer "reduced salt" or "no salt" alternatives. Restaurant owners are also more willing to prepare food with less salt, especially when asked to do so.

How DiabeticLifestyle Helps You Cut Back on Salt

Here on this website, we use salt as an optional ingredient in most recipes, calling for it in small amounts when necessary, such as in baked goods. Reduced sodium versions of soy sauce, canned tomatoes, and canned chicken or beef broth are always called for. Naturally salty foods such as anchovies, capers, dill pickles, canned tuna, etc. are used in moderation.

How to Use Less Salt

Here are some ways to keep salt under control:

  • Cook without salt, and taste the food before adding it after it's cooked. Once you've cut back on salt, you'll find most foods actually need very little, if any.
  • When you do use salt, use kosher salt.  You’ll need less than when using table salt.
  • Retrain your taste buds to appreciate herbs and spices in place of salt. Basil, bay, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme are particularly good salt replacement herbs.
  • Read the labels on the foods that you buy at the store and, whenever possible, choose low-salt, reduced-salt, or no-salt-added versions of a product. This is especially true for tomato-based products and soy sauce, as they easily can use up your sodium allowance for a day.
  • Check out your drinking water. If your home has a water-softener, drink bottled water. Ask your local water district how much sodium comes out of your tap. If it totals more than 45 parts per million, attach a sodium filter to the kitchen faucets.
  • Eat more potassium-rich foods, such as oranges, bananas, mangos, cantaloupe, dried peas and beans. You'll excrete more sodium in your urine than the average person. However, unless your physician prescribes them, don't take potassium supplements, as too much potassium can cause nausea, vomiting, and even irregular heartbeat.

Sodium-free Herb Seasoning Recipe

You can purchase salt-free herb seasoning in the spice section of most grocery stores. But it's easy (and much cheaper) to make your own. This is one that we developed for our James Beard Cookbook Award-winning Joslin Diabetes Gourmet Cookbook. Use it as a salt replacement on salads, vegetables, fish, and baked potatoes.

What You Need

  • 2 tablespoons crushed dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried thyme

What You Do

  • Combine all ingredients.
  • Store in a spice jar away from heat and light.  Use within 1 month.
Updated on: July 26, 2017