Low Sodium Pocket Guide

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Sodium is a mineral found in most foods that helps balance how much fluid your body keeps. It also helps regulate nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Kidney disease may cause the kidneys to be unable to remove excess sodium from the body causing it to build up in the blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, blood volume increases. This can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling
  • Thirst
  • Heart disease
  • Strokes

Levels of sodium in the blood should be monitored by a healthcare provider. The normal level of sodium should range from 135 to 145 mEq/L. Low sodium diets limit total consumption to 1,500 to 2,000 mg daily. Hypernatremia is the medical term that describes a sodium level in your blood that’s higher than normal.

Check with your physician to receive the daily limit that’s right for you.

  • The biggest contributor to sodium consumption is not the salt shaker. Approximately 75% of the sodium you eat comes from sodium added to processed foods and restaurant foods. This makes it difficult to choose foods with less sodium and to limit how much sodium you are eating because it is already added to your food before you purchase it.
  • Kidney patients should NOT eliminate salt completely from their diet. Sodium is an essential nutrient that controls blood pressure and ensures nerves and muscles work properly, so you need the proper amount.
  • Sea Salt does NOT contain LESS sodium than table salt. Sea salt typically contains the same percentage of sodium as table salt.
  • High levels of sodium are not found only in food. Some over the counter medications contain high levels of sodium. Be sure to read drug labels carefully.

  • Pay close attention to single serving size
  • Limit snacks to 140-150mg per serving
  • Limit Meals to 400-500mg
  • Avoid items that have over 8% of your daily value
  • Compare food labels of various brands
  • Avoid products that list salt or sodium containing compounds in the first 5 ingredients
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking soda)
    • Baking powder
    • Disodium phosphate
    • Sodium citrate
    • Sodium nitrate

Cooking tips:

  • Take time to plan ahead.
  • Shop the outer portion of the grocery store.
  • Use fresh meats and produce. Avoid processed food.
  • Use spices that don’t list “salt” in their title (example:
  • Choose garlic powder instead of garlic salt.)
  • Cook from scratch and use spices, herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper to season food.
  • Keep a food journal.

  • Table Salt
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Marinades
  • Garlic Salt
  • Onion Salt
  • Ketchup
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Salad Dressing
  • Gravy
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Potato Chips
  • Crackers
  • Cheetos
  • Salted Nuts
  • Chex Mix

  • Most Restaurant Foods
  • Chinese Take Out
  • Canned Soups
  • Canned Produce
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Sausage
  • Hot Dogs
  • Lunch Meat
  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Pepperoni

  • Fresh Produce
  • Fresh Meats
  • Fresh Dairy Products
  • Frozen Vegetables and Fruits
  • Cilantro
  • Lime
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Vinegar

Fresh Seasonings and Herbs like

  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Onion
  • Unsalted Popcorn
  • No Salt Added Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Corn Tortilla Chips


Get help coping with the challenges of living with FSGS through support groups like NephCure. Learn more about our how we can support you.


Eat a diet low in salt and processed foods to manage your blood pressure and reduce strain on your kidneys. Learn more about a kidney-friendly diet and get our cookbook.

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