The kidneys are responsible for eliminating excess sodium and fluids from your body. If there is a decline in kidney function and sodium and fluid levels are not properly managed, it can cause the blood pressure to rise. As blood pressure rises it can cause even more damage to the kidneys. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg per day with an ideal limit of less than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Let’s learn how to reduce your sodium intake without sacrificing flavor.

1. Seasonings. While salt and salt-based seasonings may add flavor to food, there are ways to add flavor without the extra sodium. Instead, try using herbs, spices, or salt-free seasonings, like Mrs. Dash, to add flavor to your food without adding sodium. It is best to avoid salt substitutes which are made from potassium. There are instances when potassium needs to be regulated or avoided with kidney disease, so talk with your doctor about potassium restrictions.

2. Learn to Read Food Labels. It is good to look at all ingredient labels when deciding which food option is best. While low sodium foods are a good option, reduced sodium can still contain high amounts of sodium. Here is a quick overview of food label terms to help you make the best food choices:

· Low Sodium – 140 mg or less per serving.

· Reduced Sodium – Sodium has been reduced by 25%.

· Light or Lite Sodium – Sodium has been reduced by 50%.

3. Beverages. Many of our favorite drinks, like sodas, hot cocoa, and even water can contain sodium. Vegetable juice is often promoted as a healthy way to add vegetables to the diet, but some brands contain as much as 960 mg of sodium. In addition, sports and rehydration drinks often have sodium added to them to increase thirst and help the body retain fluids. It is best to limit these drinks to maintain healthy sodium and fluid levels. 4. Restaurants. A study done by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 85 of 102 meals at popular restaurant chains contained more than a full days’ worth of sodium, and some of the meals contained more than four days’ worth of sodium. Here are a few tips and tricks for lowering sodium intake when eating out.

· Skip the sauce on your entrée, and instead ask for it on the side.

· Limit casseroles and opt for grilled, baked, or roasted entrees instead.

· Bring your own spices or seasonings to the restaurant, like Mrs. Dash, so you can safely add flavor to your food.

· Choose more fruits and vegetables and ask for them steamed or with no sauces.

· Choose made-to-order restaurants where they can accommodate special requests when preparing your food.

5. Convenience foods. Many convenience foods like canned soup, tv dinners, pizza, processed meats, chips, cheese, and other ready-to-eat meals contain high amounts of sodium. Rather than buying convenience foods, you can batch cook larger meals at home. This allows you to control the ingredients and you will have multiple healthy meals to enjoy later.

6. Sauces, dressing, and condiments. Many store-bought condiments and dressings contain high amounts of sodium. Ketchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, salad dressings, marinades, salsa, and more can be sneaky sources of sodium. While typically not used in large quantities, the sodium can really begin to add up. It is best to choose low sodium versions whenever possible, or even make your own from scratch.

Many people consume too much sodium each day without even knowing it. Sodium is often used to add flavor to foods, but can also be used as preservatives, which is why it is important to check food labels. While it is critical to limit sodium intake for the sake of the kidneys, reduced sodium intake can help to reduce the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Controlling the sodium in our daily diet is imperative for our overall health, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our favorite foods or our favorite restaurants. It just means we need to make smart choices and healthy swaps to keep our body healthy.