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A low sodium diet is a diet that includes no more than 1,500 to 2,400 mg of sodium per day. (One teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg sodium.) People who follow a vigorous or moderate exercise schedule are usually advised to limit their sodium intake to 3,000 mg per day and those with moderate to severe heart failure are usually advised to limit their sodium intake to 2,000 mg per day.. People who have been diagnosed with Ménière's disease, as well, need to follow a low-sodium diet.
The human minimum requirement for sodium in the diet is about 500 mg per day, which is typically less than one-sixth as much as many diets "seasoned to taste". For certain people with salt-sensitive blood pressure, this extra intake may cause a negative effect on health.
The effect of a low salt diet on mortality or cardiovascular disease is unclear with any benefit in either hypertensive or normal tensive people being small if present. In 2012, the British Journal Heart published an article claiming that a low salt diet appears to increase the risk of death in those with congestive heart failure, but the article was retracted in 2013. The article was retracted by the journal when it was found the two of the studies cited contained duplicate data that could not be verified.
A low sodium diet has a useful effect to reduce blood pressure, both in people with hypertension and in people with normal blood pressure. Taken together, a low salt diet (median of approximately 4.5 g/day - approx 1800 mg Sodium) in hypertensive people resulted in a decrease in systolic blood pressure by 5 mmHg, and in diastolic blood pressure by 2.70 mmHg. In people with normal blood pressure, the corresponding decrease in systolic blood pressure was 2.03 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure 0.99 mmHg.
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, which is table salt. Milk, beets, and celery also naturally contain sodium, as does drinking water, although the amount varies depending on the source. Sodium is also added to various food products. Some of these added forms are monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate. These are ingredients in condiments and seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, and bouillon cubes. Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, and canned soups and vegetables are all examples of foods that contain added sodium. Fast foods are generally very high in sodium. Also, processed foods such as potato chips, frozen dinners and cured meats have high sodium content.
It has been noted that such large amounts of salts are given out by regenerative water softeners that over 60 cities in Southern California have banned these units because of elevated salt levels in ground water reclamation projects caused by water softeners and other sources. Water labeled as "drinking water" in supermarkets may have sodium since it is usually only filtered with a carbon filter and will contain any and all sodium present in the source water.
Unprocessed, fresh foods, such as fresh fruits, most vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish and unprocessed grains are low in sodium. The availability of low sodium foods is increasing. Due to the difficulty of finding low sodium versions of processed foods that are naturally high in, or contain medium levels of, sodium (such as cereals, soups, and canned seafood), food markets and distributors have recently started opening online businesses that focus on marketing low sodium products. Just like low carb or low calorie products, low sodium products began to take their own place in food marketers’ shelves. Many low sodium products have crossed over from the hospitality industry and are now available online, such as low sodium soup bases.
Other foods that are low in sodium include: