Heart Failure Diet: Low Sodium

Overview

What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral. It is found naturally in foods. Sodium is also added to processed foods. Sodium helps keep a normal balance of fluid in your body. Patients with heart failure need to follow a low-sodium diet because it helps control symptoms of heart failure and prevent other heart problems.

Why do I need to limit my sodium?

Limiting sodium in your diet helps minimize the amount of extra fluid around your heart, lungs, and in your legs. Extra fluid in your body makes your heart work harder and can increase your blood pressure.

Salty Facts

  • Salt and Sodium are not the same thing; Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride
  • A teaspoon of salt = 2,300 mg of sodium
  • Sea salt and kosher salt are less processed than ordinary table salt, but they are NOT low in sodium. The amount of sodium is about the same for all table and sea salts.

Management and Treatment

Important Nutrition Guidelines

  • Include high-fiber foods. Following a heart-healthy diet made up of high-fiber, low-cholesterol and low-sodium foods will help you maintain or reach a healthy body weight. Cooked dried peas, beans (legumes) and whole grain foods also help with digestion and controlling glucose levels.
  • Use fresh ingredients and/or foods with no salt added whenever possible. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish are low-sodium foods.
  • Most frozen vegetables are good alternatives to fresh. Canned or frozen fruits are acceptable. Choose no-salt-added canned vegetables, or rinse canned vegetables before they are cooked.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and delete or decrease the amount of salt you add. Salt can be removed from any recipe except those that contain yeast.
  • Avoid convenience foods such as canned soups, entreés, vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal and puddings, and gravy sauce mixes.
  • If you must choose frozen entreés, select those that contain 600 mg or less of sodium. However, limit these items to one per day. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the package for sodium content.
  • Avoid canned, cured or smoked meats and items like deli meats.
  • Low-sodium canned soups may be used.

These guidelines are discussed in more detail:

Learning to read food labels

Food labels are standardized by the U.S. government’s National Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). Review the food label below. If you do not know how much total sodium is in this product, ask your dietitian or health care provider to show you how to read food labels and apply the information to your personal needs.

A. The serving size represents the typical amount eaten by an adult . If you eat 2 portions, multiply nutrition values by 2.

B. The sodium content is listed on the food label per serving size. Ignore the % daily value and focus on the amount of mg sodium per serving. Decreasing the total amount of sodium you consume to 2,000 milligrams (mg) per day or less is one of the most important ways to manage heart failure

"Low sodium" = 140 mg or less per serving
"No sodium" = less than 5 mg per serving

Sodium guidelines

Your doctor may recommend that you consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. That's what the Heart Failure Society of America recommends. An even lower daily intake of no more than 1,500 mg per day for all adults is recommended by the American Heart Association. Eating a low-sodium diet means more than just eliminating the salt shaker from the table! However, that is a good start since one teaspoon of table salt = 2,300 mg of sodium. Also remember that 77% of all sodium is in processed food. It is important to keep a record of the amount of sodium you consume every day. Write down the amount, in mg, after each meal or snack. Lowering sodium in your diet means 3 things:

  1. Get rid of the salt shaker.
  2. Check food labels.
  3. Make sensible choices when dining away from home.

Comparison of Sodium in Foods

Protein

  • Bacon
    • Serving Size: 1 medium slice
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 155
  • Chicken (dark meat)
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz roasted
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 87
  • Chicken (light meat)
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz roasted
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 77
  • Egg, fried
    • Serving Size: 1 large
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 162
  • Egg, scrambled with milk
    • Serving Size: 1 large
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 171
  • Dried beans, peas or lentils
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Haddock
    • Serving Size: 3 oz cooked
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 74
  • Halibut
    • Serving Size: 3 oz cooked
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 59
  • Ham (roasted)
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1300-1500
  • Hamburger (lean)
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz broiled medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 77
  • Hot dog (beef)
    • Serving Size: 1 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 585
  • Peanuts, dry roasted
    • Serving Size: 1 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 228
  • Pork loin, roasted
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 65
  • Roast veal leg
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 68
  • Roast lamb leg
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 65
  • Salmon
    • Serving Size: 3 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 50
  • Shellfish
    • Serving Size: 3 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 100 to 325
  • Shrimp
    • Serving Size: 3 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 190
  • Spareribs, braised
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 93
  • Steak, T-bone
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 66
  • Tuna, canned in spring water
    • Serving Size: 3 oz chunk
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 300
  • Turkey, dark meat
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz roasted
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 76
  • Turkey, light meat
    • Serving Size: 3.5 oz roasted
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 63

Dairy Products

  • American Cheese
    • Serving Size: 1 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 443
  • Buttermilk, salt added
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 260
  • Cheddar cheese
    • Serving Size: 1 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 175
  • Cottage cheese, low fat
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 918
  • Milk, whole
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 120
  • Milk, skim or 1%
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 125
  • Swiss cheese
    • Serving Size: 1 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 75
  • Yogurt, plain
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 115

Vegetables and Vegetable Juice

  • Asparagus
    • Serving Size: 6 spears
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 10
  • Avocado
    • Serving Size: 1/2 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 10
  • Beans, white, cooked
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Beans, green
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Beets
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 84
  • Broccoli, raw
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 12
  • Broccoli, cooked
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 20
  • Carrot, raw
    • Serving Size: 1 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 25
  • Carrot, cooked
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 52
  • Celery
    • Serving Size: 1 stalk raw
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 35
  • Corn (sweet, no butter/salt)
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 14
  • Cucumber
    • Serving Size: 1/2 sliced
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1
  • Eggplant, raw
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2
  • Eggplant, cooked
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Lettuce
    • Serving Size: 1 leaf
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2
  • Lima beans
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 5
  • Mushrooms
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup (raw or cooked)
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1-2
  • Mustard greens
    • Serving Size: 1/2 chopped
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 12
  • Onions, chopped
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup (raw or cooked)
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2-3
  • Peas
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Potato
    • Serving Size: 1 baked
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 7
  • Radishes
    • Serving Size: 10
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 11
  • Spinach, raw
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 22
  • Spinach, cooked
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 63
  • Squash, acorn
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Sweet potato
    • Serving Size: 1 small
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 12
  • Tomato
    • Serving Size: 1 small
    • Milligrams/Sodium:11
  • Tomato juice, canned
    • Serving Size: 3/4 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 660

Fruits and Fruit Juices

  • Apple
    • Serving Size: 1 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1
  • Apple juice
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 7
  • Apricots
    • Serving Size: 3 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1
  • Apricots (dried)
    • Serving Size: 10 halves
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 3
  • Banana
    • Serving Size: 1 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1
  • Cantaloupe
    • Serving Size: 1/2 cup chopped
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 14
  • Dates
    • Serving Size: 10 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2
  • Grapes
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2
  • Grape juice
    • Serving Size: 1cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 7
  • Grapefruit
    • Serving Size: 1 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 0
  • Grapefruit juice
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 3
  • Orange
    • Serving Size: 1 medium
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 1
  • Orange juice
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2
  • Peach
    • Serving Size: 1
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 0
  • Prunes (dried)
    • Serving Size: 10
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 3
  • Raisins
    • Serving Size: 1/3 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 6
  • Strawberries
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 2
  • Watermelon
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 3

Breads and Grains

  • Bran flakes
    • Serving Size: 3/4 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 220
  • Bread, whole wheat
    • Serving Size: 1 slice
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 159
  • Bread, white
    • Serving Size: 1 slice
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 123
  • Bun, hamburger
    • Serving Size: 1
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 241
  • Cooked cereal (instant)
    • Serving Size: 1 packet
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 250
  • Corn flakes
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 290
  • English muffin
    • Serving Size :1/2
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 182
  • Pancake
    • Serving Size: 1 (7-inch round)
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 431
  • Rice, white long grain
    • Serving Size: 1 cup cooked
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 4
  • Shredded wheat
    • Serving Size: 1 biscuit
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 0
  • Spaghetti
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 7
  • Waffle
    • Serving Size: 1 frozen
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 235

Convenience Foods

  • Canned soups
    • Serving Size: 1 cup
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 600-1,300
  • Canned and frozen main dishes
    • Serving Size: 8 oz
    • Milligrams/Sodium: 500-2,570

Please note: These are sodium content ranges—the sodium content in certain food items may vary. Please contact your dietitian for specific product information.

Source: Sodium analysis was done using ESHA Food Processor for Windows, Version 8.4, 2004.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

Resources

Sodium guidelines: Foods to choose

Protein - choose 2-3 servings/day

  • 2-3 ounces of fresh or frozen fish, shellfish, meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork) or poultry
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium canned fish (such as salmon or tuna)
  • 1 low-sodium frozen dinner (less than 600 mg sodium per meal) - Limit to one per day
  • 1 egg (no more than 3 whole eggs per week)

Dairy products - choose 2 or more servings/day

  • 1-1/2 ounces of low-sodium cheese
  • 1 cup milk (non-fat or 1% recommended)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium cottage cheese
  • 1 cup soy milk

Vegetables and fruits - choose 5 or more servings/day

  • 1/2 cup fresh whole, chopped, cooked, frozen or canned fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, frozen or no-salt added canned vegetables
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato juice or V-8 juice
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables

Bread and grains - choose 6 or more servings/day

  • Low-sodium breads, rolls, bagels and cereals (1 serving = 1 slice bread, 1 small roll, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 English muffin or a 4-inch pita)
  • 1/2 cup pasta (noodles, spaghetti, macaroni)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Low-sodium crackers (read label for serving size)

Sweets and snacks (include sparingly)

  • 1 ounce unsalted nuts
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium pretzels or chips
  • 3 cups popped low-sodium popcorn
  • 3 fig bars or gingersnaps
  • 1 slice angel food cake
  • 1 tbsp jelly or honey
  • 1 cup sherbet, sorbet or Italian ice; 1 popsicle
  • 8-10 jelly beans; 3 pieces hard candy

Fats, oils and condiments (use sparingly)

  • Olive and canola oils
  • Low-sodium butter and margarine
  • Low-sodium soups
  • Low-sodium salad dressing
  • Homemade gravy without salt
  • Low-sodium broth or bouillon
  • Low-sodium catsup
  • Low-sodium mustard
  • Low-sodium sauce mixes

Fats, oils and condiments (can use freely)

  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar
  • Herbs and spices without salt

Sample Menu

Breakfast

  • Fresh fruit
  • Low sodium cereal (hot or cold)
  • Milk
  • Low sodium wheat bread
  • Reduced sodium margarine or peanut butter

Lunch

  • Lean roast turkey on whole wheat bread with low sodium mustard
  • Raw carrot sticks
  • Applesauce
  • Unsalted pretzels

Dinner

  • Grilled Chicken
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Steamed fresh vegetables
  • Tossed salad and low sodium dressing
  • Low sodium roll with low sodium margarine
  • Fresh melon
  • Angel food cake

Snacks

  • Fresh fruit

Note: For a diet in which you consume 2,000 mg of sodium per day, a sample plan might involve eating 500 mg at breakfast 500 mg for snacks twice daily, 500 mg for lunch, and 500 mg for dinner.

Sodium guidelines - Seasonings

Seasonings

  • Get rid of the salt shaker. Do not add salt when cooking.
  • Do not use any seasoning with salt in the name.
  • Find alternatives to salt for flavoring foods while cooking, like Mrs. Dash® or McCormick® products.
  • Avoid salt substitutes (may have potassium chloride) or anything that says less salt, such as Salt Sense® or NoSalt®.
  • Try lemon, orange or pineapple juice as a base for meat marinades.
  • Use fresh herbs and spices such as garlic or garlic powder, onions or onion powder, rosemary, oregano, basil and dill.

Seasoning recipes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well. Spoon into shaker. Store in a cool, dark place.

Spicy blend

  • 2 tbsp dried savory, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder

Saltless surprise

  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp powdered lemon rind or dehydrated lemon juice

Spicy seasoning

  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary

Herb seasoning

  • 2 tbsp dried dill weed or basil leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp (pinch) dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • pinch freshly ground pepper

Restaurant dining tips

Appetizers

  • Select fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Avoid soups and broths
  • Stay away from bread and rolls with salty, buttery crusts

Salads

  • Select fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid pickles, canned or marinated vegetables, cured meats, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds
  • Order salad dressings on the side and use small amounts of them

Main courses

  • Select meat, poultry, fish or shellfish choices that includes the words broiled, grilled or roasted
  • Select plain vegetables, potatoes and noodles
  • Ask the server about the low sodium menu choices, and ask how the food is prepared
  • Ask for a vegetarian sandwich with fresh vegetables
  • Request that food be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow for special food preparation (such as buffet style restaurants, diners or fast food chains)
  • Avoid casseroles, mixed dishes, gravies and sauces
  • At fast food restaurants, choose the salad entrees or non-fried and non-breaded entrees (such as a baked potato) and skip the special sauces, condiments and cheese*
  • Add your own small amount of mustard or mayonnaise to a sandwich

*Avoid salted condiments and garnishes such as olives and pickles.

Desserts

Select fresh fruits, ices, ice cream, sherbet, gelatin and plain cakes

Alcohol guidelines

Because alcohol can slow your heart rate and worsen your heart failure, your health care provider may tell you to avoid or limit alcoholic beverages. Alcohol may also interact with the medications you are taking. Ask your health care provider for specific guidelines regarding alcohol.

This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

Visit www.nutrition.gov for more information about sodium.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/01/2019.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy