A diet low in sodium is essential for a healthy body. While the human body requires sodium, too much is a health hazard. Unfortunately, most processed foods tend to be high in sodium, and even "reduced-sodium" products still contain far more than is needed. Spending a little more time shopping and preparing your meals is all that is required to embark on a low-sodium diet.
Most people consume too much sodium. Period. A quick scan of the ingredients of any food product reveals the amount of sodium it contains. This number is often shockingly high, and while sodium is a necessary part of our diet, we consume 10 times more than our bodies require. Most processed and packaged foods contain abundant amounts of sodium. Prepared frozen dinners, soup, most fast foods, sauces and marinades, and deli meat and cheese are the foods to limit in your diet.
The benefits of a low-sodium diet include a reduction of blood pressure (as well as a lessened risk of heart disease), weight loss and a smaller chance of suffering a stroke. A secondary (but just as important) benefit is that these foods tend to be healthier, and people lower their cholesterol and consume fewer carbohydrates overall.
Most people lose weight, feel more energetic and find themselves less bloated after starting a low-sodium diet. When blood pressure is lowered to a healthy rate, headaches and dizziness occur much less frequently, and the need for blood pressure-lowering medication is usually reduced. Also, starting children out on low-sodium meals and foods will help them build a foundation of healthy living and eating.
A diet low in sodium doesn't have to be bland and flavorless. Most fresh fruit, vegetables and meats are naturally low in sodium. Alternatively, low-sodium seasonings can more than make up for salt in a dish. A low-sodium diet doesn't have to banish some favorite snacks from everyday use; unsalted pretzels (aka baldies), unsalted nuts and plain popcorn are still excellent, tasty treats, even without salt.
Too much sodium in the diet has been directly linked to high blood pressure (aka hypertension), heart disease, liver and kidney problems and even diabetes. However, radical changes to any diet can cause health problems, so the best bet is to consult a doctor or other health-care provider regarding your sodium intake. But a sensible elimination of high-sodium foods and suppressing the desire to automatically add salt to your food is good advice for anybody.