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Sodium: Tips for People with Chronic Kidney Disease

What Is Sodium?

Sodium is a part of salt. Sodium is found in many canned, packaged, and "fast" foods. It is also found in many condiments, seasonings, and meats.

Why Is Sodium Important for People with CKD?

Eating less sodium helps lower blood pressure and may slow down CKD. Try to keep your blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.

One of the kidneys' important jobs is to filter sodium out of the body and into the urine. Damaged kidneys cannot filter as well as healthy kidneys can. This can cause sodium to stay in your body and make your blood pressure go up.

How Much Sodium Should I Eat Every Day?

Most people need to eat less sodium than they are eating. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Much of the sodium you eat does not come from a salt shaker. Sodium is added to the prepared foods you buy at the supermarket or at restaurants.

Foods Lower in Sodium:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Rice, noodles
  • Cooked cereal without added salt
  • Fresh meat, poultry, seafood
  • Low-fat, low-sodium cheese
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Low- and reduced-sodium frozen dinners, peanut butter, salad dressings
  • Air-popped popcorn

Foods Higher in Sodium:

  • Bacon, corned beef, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meat, sausage
  • Bouillon, canned, and instant soups
  • Boxed mixes, like hamburger meals and pancake mix
  • Canned beans, chicken, fish and meat
  • Canned tomato products, including juice
  • Canned and pickled vegetables, vegetable juice
  • Cottage cheese
  • Frozen meals
  • Frozen vegetables with sauce
  • Olives, pickles, relish
  • Pretzels, chips, crackers, salted nuts
  • Salt and salt seasonings, like garlic salt
  • Seasoning mix and sauce packets
  • Soy sauce
  • Salad dressings, bottled sauces, marinades
  • Some ready-to-eat cereals, baked goods, breads
  • Ready-to-eat boxed meals and side dishes

How Do I Lower the Sodium in My Diet?

  • Buy fresh foods more often.
  • Cook foods from scratch, instead of eating prepared foods, "fast" foods, frozen dinners, and canned foods that are higher in sodium.
  • Use spices, herbs, and sodium-free seasonings in place of salt. Check with your healthcare provider about using salt substitutes.
  • Rinse canned vegetables, beans, meats, and fish with water to remove extra sodium.
  • Always read the Nutrition Facts label to compare foods. Choose foods with the lowest Percent Daily Value (%DV) for sodium. The %DV lets you see if a food is high or low in sodium. 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.
  • Check the label on fresh meats and poultry. Sodium additives can be used to make meat last longer.
  • Look for foods labeled: sodium free, salt free, very low sodium, low sodium, reduced or less sodium, light in sodium, no salt added, unsalted, and lightly salted.

An image of a food label showing that the serving size listed for the item is one cup, but the package contains two servings. If you eat two servings, the amount doubles. One serving of the item has 660 milligrams of sodium. This is 28% of the daily value for sodium. 

Check the Ingredient Label for Added Sodium

  • Salt (sodium chloride)
  • Monosodium glutamate or MSG
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Baking powder
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Sodium sulfite
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Sodium alginate
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Sodium propionate​​

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.

July 9, 2014

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