Getting Started With a Low Sodium Diet for COPD

Eating a diet high in sodium contributes to many health concerns, such as hypertension, congestive heart failure, and heart attack. And because excess sodium can cause fluid retention and weight gain, COPD patients may experience a worsening of dypsnea, or shortness of breath, if they consume a diet high in sodium.

Fish and vegetables on a white plate
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While a low-sodium diet isn't specifically recommended for people who have COPD as a standalone condition, it may be recommended if you have, or are at risk for, the above conditions, as many people with COPD often are. Follow these tips to reduce sodium in your diet and improve your health.

Subdue Your Salt Shaker

Oh, the temptation of shaking that salt shaker into every meal that we make. Holding the added salt is an easy starting point for cutting back on sodium. Many of the foods we eat already contain an over-abundance of salt. Adding more only increases your risk of sodium-related complications.

Use Alternative Flavoring

If salt is usually your go-to, try experimenting with different herbs and spices until you find one that suits your fancy. You'd be surprised at how delicious your foods can taste when sprinkled with some sweet basil or aromatic anise, for example. For an added treat, you can grow your own herb garden.

Read Labels With a Discerning Eye

You may not have known that the salt shaker isn't the main source of sodium in American's diet. More than 75 percent of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged foods or eating out. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily recommended allowance for sodium is no more than 2,400 milligrams. Keep in mind, however, that this generally applies to healthy adults and not those who have a chronic illness. The next time you go shopping, use a discerning eye when reading food labels. Avoid foods that contain a sodium content of greater than 300 milligrams per serving, and keep an eye out for these foods, which contribute more than 40 percent of most American's daily sodium:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Cold cuts and cured meats 
  • Pizza
  • Fresh and processed poultry
  • Soups
  • Sandwiches
  • Cheese
  • Mixed pasta dishes
  • Mixed meat dishes
  • Snacks

Watch Out for Hidden Sodium

High sodium foods may not always be labeled as containing salt or sodium. Some may contain sodium compounds such as:

  • Monosodium glutamate (more commonly known as MSG)
  • Baking soda or baking powder
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite
  • Sodium alginate

Be mindful of these ingredients and try to make healthier food choices.

Choose Fresh Over Processed Foods

Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over highly processed foods, such as canned goods or luncheon meats. Buy fresh and frozen meat, chicken or fish that has not been injected with a sodium type of solution. If you're not sure, ask your butcher for help.

Contain Your Condiments

Did you know that one tablespoon of ketchup contains 190 milligrams of sodium? Most condiments such as dips, relishes, mustard, ketchup and salad dressings are packed with sodium—something to keep in mind when you are adorning your favorite foods with them.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

In addition to following a low sodium diet, remember that water is a natural diuretic and generally speaking, wherever water goes, sodium follows.

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  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015, September 3). Sodium in Your Diet: Using the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake.