Please DON’T Pass the Salt

COPD Salt intake, COPD Salt, lung disease salt, copd and sodium, copd and saltFor many years, we’ve treated salt as the enemy, cursing it, making it sit in the back corner of our cupboards, replacing it with savvy substitutes and regretting ever using it when we wake up in the morning with swollen ankles. Yes, salt has taken a beating, but is indeed still alive and well, often appearing in disguise on the food labels of some of our favorite grocery items.

If you have COPD alone, without co-existing heart problems, you probably weren’t advised by your physician to stick to a low sodium diet. However, nearly 70% of all Americans are at risk for developing health problems related to excess salt intake, including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart attack.1 What can you do about salt?

Send your salt shaker packin’ with the following guidelines:

  • Skip the salt – Have you checked food labels lately? Many of the foods you eat are already loaded with sodium.  Resist the temptation and skip adding additional salt to any of your meals.
  • Say yes to herbs and spice – Herbs and spices can turn an otherwise mundane meal into an exciting one. Sweet basil – rosemary – thyme – turmeric – cayenne pepper – a little imagination and the possibilities are endless.
  • Recognize crafty disguises – Sodium is a crafty little devil, often appearing on food labels as something different than what it really is. Monosodium glutamate – baking soda – disodium phosphate – sodium citrate – sodium nitrate – sodium alginate – terms like these mean only one thing: that the food the label is describing is loaded with sodium.
  • Talk to your doctor – For most adults, the daily recommended amount of sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams (1 teaspoon). However, the American Heart Association recommends that certain groups of people, including those over age 50 and people with diabetes or high blood pressure, limit themselves to less than 1,500 milligrams (2/3 teaspoon) per day.1 Check with your doctor to find out the recommended daily amount that’s right for you.
  • Pass on processed foods – These days, processed foods are almost oozing with sodium. Instead of canned or processed, choose fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh or frozen meat, chicken or fish, that’s not been injected with a sodium solution.
  • Curb your condiments – 190 milligrams – It’s unbelievable the amount of sodium in one tablespoon of ketchup. Whenever possible, limit condiments or replace them all together with other types of natural flavoring, such as lemon juice, lime juice or fresh, homemade salsa.

Holiday foods like canned ham, canned sweet potatoes and packaged stuffing, are often inundated with added sodium. When you sit down at the holiday dinner table, remember the guidelines above and just say no!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only.  This article should not be interpreted to be medical or dietary advice.  As always, consult your doctor before making changes to your diet if you have a chronic disease.


Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


1 Harvard School of Public Health. Salt and Sodium. Accessed 12/11/13.

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