Caregiving Nutrition

Best Low Sodium Meals For Seniors

Low sodium meals are an integral part of a good, healthy diet. When updating your diet to have less sodium for what ever reason it is good to make a plan.  If you’re like most people in the U.S., you get more sodium than is recommended or needed. Here at CircleOf, we researched some of what low-sodium meals for seniors means. 

How to Start a Low Sodium Diet?

Start by understanding how much salt you eat per day and where sodium is hidden in your food.  

Do you know how much sodium you consume per day?  We didn’t, so we kept a journal and did some research. Here’s an important visual: one teaspoon of table salt, which is sodium + chloride, has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Generally speaking, an average adult ideally consumes below 2,300 mg per day. 

There are some foods that naturally contain sodium. These include vegetables and dairy products, meat, and shellfish. While these foods don’t have a lot of sodium, eating them adds up.  We found a handy list about sodium in vegetables here to help out.   

As much as 70% of the sodium we eat comes from food processed or packaged foods, and only about 5 % comes from that additional shake of table salt.  Why?  Because salt is used as a preservative as well as a flavor pop.

Suffice it to say that we are a salt loving bunch and our sodium intake adds up throughout the day. The average American eats close to 3,400 mg of sodium a day.  That amount is way above the U.S. recommended Dietary Guidelines.  

How Much Sodium Per Day, for Seniors

We talked about the average adult above, but now let’s look at how that is for Seniors.  Here seniors are defined of as 50 years or older.

Experts say it is best to remain near 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day as a guideline. This average daily amount ensures you get the amount of sodium that your body can manage. If you constantly push to 2,300 mg or higher per day, you increase the likelihood that you may develop health issues.  

Why is Sodium Harmful to our Heart?

Sodium affects our kidneys and heart. Our kidneys balance sodium in the body. When sodium is low, the kidneys hold on to it. When sodium is high, the kidneys release some in urine.

If the kidneys can’t eliminate enough sodium, it builds up in your blood. Sodium attracts and holds water, so the blood volume increases. 

Isn’t blood volume good?  Not necessarily.

The heart has to work harder to pump blood, which then increases pressure in the arteries (i.e. blood pressure). Over time this increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Heart Issues Can Improve With a Low Sodium Diet

How do you lower your blood pressure?  A low sodium diet. OK, that wasn’t funny; stay with us.

A person dealing with any heart issue should not consume too much sodium in their diet and your doctor will send you home with those instructions.  

We found some tasty recipes online that can are simple and lip smackin’. I particularly liked the Blueberry Pancakes from Kim at Insanely Good Recipes.  For savory snacks and meals we appreciate Jenny from Happy Muncher.

Drugs Can Affect Sodium Levels

IMPORTANT for Caregivers!

We need to watch water or what we eat, but we also need to know how medication may affecta sodium levels. Diuretics, corticosteroids, sodium chloride, anabolic steroids, estrogens, and sodium bicarbonate all impact sodium retention. 

Some medicines have sodium in them in the form of sodium bicarbonate to make them fizz.  Paying attention or keeping a journal of what is consumed is the only way to ensure the sodium levels do not increase to dangerous levels.

Low Sodium Shopping Advice

The best way to go shopping for low-sodium foods is to look for natural options. This includes vegetables, fruits, and other options that will not add sodium.

  • Read labels
  • Eat fresh foods 
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and meats (not injected with a sodium containing solution)  
  • Choose low-sodium products, if you buy processed foods
  • Go for whole-grain rice and pasta and skip seasoning packets
  • Eat at home  
  • Remove salt from recipes 
  • Grab a cookbook for high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Replace salt with herbs, spices and other tasty flavorings

Tip: Choose Low Sodium Foods When Eating Out

When you are dining out,  look for healthier food options.  

Eat whole grains plus food with fruits and vegetables in them. Treat yourself and your future self to something better for you than a hamburger from the local fast food joint. 

Lower Sodium and You 

You can do it.  You do all kinds of things you consider difficult. 

Information is the first step. If you are a caregiver and or someone who needs to lower their sodium for health reasons you got this.  

There are lots of avenues to crafting good low-sodium meals for seniors. It will take time to pinpoint what works well and is ideal for you and your loved ones taste buds.  

The CircleOf Caregiver app can help you plan, shop for and stay on top of your loved one’s new and improved diet.  A lower sodium diet will help you improve your health.  Food is life. A low sodium meal for seniors, or anyone, makes heart sense. 

Also Read: 

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* U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.govn