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Sodium (salt)

What is sodium?

Sodium is one of the two electrolytes found in salt. Sodium plays many important roles in the way our bodies function.

The sodium found naturally in foods is plenty to maintain healthy levels in our body. However, we add salt while we cook, while we eat, and it is added to many processed foods. This can lead to eating too much salt. Having too much salt in your food can lead to high blood pressure, which is the second leading cause of kidney disease.

High-sodium foods and kidney disease

Salt makes you thirsty and can make your body retain fluid. Having more fluid in your body can raise your blood pressure. When you have high blood pressure, your kidneys must work harder to filter blood. Over time, this can lead to kidney damage.

Too much fluid in your body also puts more strain on your heart, lowers your protein levels, and leads to difficulty breathing. Taking steps to limit excess fluid buildup, and thereby controlling blood pressure, is vital to improving your health.

If you have high blood pressure, eating a low or no added salt diet can help to lower it. Increasing your daily physical activity and taking blood pressure medicines if prescribed by your doctor are other ways to manage your blood pressure. Taking steps to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level may help keep kidney disease from getting worse.

Foods with added salt

Unless specifically marked as low-salt or low sodium, the following foods and drinks usually have added salt:

Soda and sports drinks

Ice Cream

Frozen dinners and snacks

Frozen (1)

Fast food and food from restaurants

Chips (1)

Packaged snacks (chips, pretzels, nuts, etc.)

Bakery items (bread, bagels, pies, cakes, etc.)

Condiments (ketchup, salad dressings, hot sauce, soy sauce, etc.)

Canned and jarred foods (tomatoes, beans, corn, pickles, etc.)

Seasonings and spices with salt (garlic salt, celery salt, seasoned salt, taco seasoning, seafood seasoning, etc.)

Tips for reducing salt

  • Choose no salt added canned foods (only if you do not need to limit potassium)
  • Add Mrs. Dash® instead of salt while cooking or at the table
  • Use herbs and spices for flavor while cooking
  • Cook at home
  • Avoid fried foods (the breading has salt and many times fried foods are salted right out of the fryer)
  • Drink water (soda and sports drinks have added salt)
  • Choose no salt added snacks (like no salt pretzels)
  • When eating out, choose foods that are steamed and grilled instead of fried or blackened
  • When eating out, ask the server to ask the chef not to add salt to the dish
  • Choose from the “diet” menu at Chinese restaurants 

Tips, webinars and videos

How to be a heart healthy patient

Salt and your kidneys

Fluid management & control

More Kidney Kitchen Resources