Shunning Salt? 5 Diets to Avoid
Reducing salt intake can be challenging under any circumstances, but it’s doubly difficult if you’re already following a specialized diet for other reasons such as lifestyle or weight loss. Where sodium is concerned, US dietary guidelines recommend limiting daily consumption to roughly one teaspoon or 2300 mg per day, while the American Heart Association recommends 1500 mg a day.
Whether you’re shunning salt to comply with these guidelines or you’re following doctor’s orders, you may want to avoid these five popular diets:
- Brand-name or commercial. Be wary of commercial diets where most or all of the food you consume consists of prepared meals and snack foods. In many of these programs, adhering to the basic daily menu recommendations can deliver close to 4000 mg of sodium per day.
- Macrobiotic. A typical daily menu recommended on the plant-based macrobiotic eating plan delivers about 2500 mg. While this is only slightly higher than the 2300 mg maximum, it’s significantly higher than the target of 1500 mg recommended for African Americans, people over 51 and those with chronic kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
- High protein. While some high protein diets emphasize lean fresh meats, others permit a variety of protein sources including cheese and processed meats. A half-cup of cottage cheese contains more than 400 mg, one slice of American cheese may contain more than 360 mg, and an ounce of hard salami contains about 500 mg.
- Vegan. Tofu, a common ingredient used to replace meat and dairy, may be loaded with sodium. A basic 4 oz serving can vary from about 10 mg to 2800 mg. Prepackaged vegan meals, frozen foods, sauces, soups and canned foods are also culprits: One tablespoon of soy sauce may contain more than 600 mg, a cup of vegetable broth more than 500 mg, and a cup of beans more than 400 mg.
- Vegetarian. By definition, faux meats and dairy substitutes are processed foods, one of the leading sources of salt in the American diet. While figures vary widely, one serving of meat substitute often contains more than 600 mg of sodium, and some have more than 900 mg. If you’re on a very low sodium diet, a single serving may comprise more than half your total daily salt allotment.
Any of these basic eating programs can be modified to suit your goals, but you’ll want to become familiar with the specific food groups that can sabotage any low sodium diet, a topic we’ve discussed elsewhere. With the right information in hand, you can tailor your dietary preferences to your needs, as long as you’re willing to read food nutrition labels, plan ahead and track salt intake on a routine basis.