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Posted by Cyril Grither on June 21, 2023

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The recommended salt intake is 2000mg of sodium per day.

Salt is a mineral made up of sodium and chloride. It is found in certain foods and in the form of table salt or sea salt. Since sodium acts like a sponge, it promotes fluid retention. Consuming too much salt can lead to fluid retention in the leg, abdomen or lung area, which forces the heart to work harder.

Most of the sodium we eat is hidden in food. Even foods that don't taste particularly salty can be high in sodium.

Limit the amount of sodium you eat to 2000 mg or less per day. Try not to exceed 600 mg of sodium per meal, which will allow you to evenly distribute your sodium intake throughout the day and thus prevent excessive water retention.

Here are some tips for reducing the amount of sodium in your diet:

  • Do not add salt while cooking or at the table;
  • Learn to read food labels;
  • Choose more foods low in sodium;
  • Limit foods that are very high in sodium.

One teaspoon of salt = 2,300 mg of sodium, which is more than the maximum amount of sodium you can consume per day! Two-thirds of the salt consumed in Canada is hidden in processed foods.

How to read a food label for sodium

To be sure of the sodium content of the foods you eat, you need to read the labels. The salt content is always indicated on the packaging; check it nutrition facts table.

Follow these easy steps to read the label.

  • This food contains 250 mg of sodium per 125 ml.
  • This food contains a lot of sodium.
  • If you consume 250 ml of this food, your sodium intake will be 500 mg.

Instead, eat the following foods more often (low in sodium):

Avoid or limit consumption of the following foods (very high in sodium):

Eating at home

  • Reduce your salt intake gradually to give your taste buds time to adjust.
  • Instead of adding salt to the foods you cook or eat, use salt-free herbs and seasonings.
  • Avoid bagged or boxed pre-packaged “instant” meals.
  • If you must consume canned foods, rinse them before cooking or eating them.
  • When you're at the grocery store, choose foods from the outside aisles where most of the fresh food is.
  • Plan your meals (eg grill an extra chicken breast for your sandwiches the next day).
  • Prepare or choose low sodium sauces.
  • Prepare a vinaigrette with garlic, fresh herbs, olive oil and flavored vinegar.
  • Add seasonings to soups during the last hour of cooking for maximum flavor.
  • At the grocery store, choose foods labeled "no salt added" or "low in sodium."

Find low sodium recipes

1. Try a new cookbook:

  • The following associations offer low sodium recipes:
    • Dietitians of Canada
    • American Heart Association

2. The internet is an endless source of low sodium recipes. Look for your favorite low sodium recipes. Use a search engine like Google to find low sodium recipes.

  • Visit
  • Type “low sodium recipes” in the search bar.

Visit these websites for recipe ideas:

At the restaurant

  • Ask for salt-free meals.
  • Don't use the salt shaker.
  • Avoid dishes with a lot of cheese or sauce.
  • Avoid fried foods – order grilled, baked or steamed foods.
  • Choose an oil-and-vinegar-based dressing.
  • Avoid bacon, sausages and ham.
  • Ask that foods be served without condiments or high-salt accompaniments such as relish, mustard, ketchup, pickles, chips, sauces and dressings. Instead, ask for low-salt sides like tomatoes and cucumbers, lettuce, horseradish, oil, vinegar and lemon.
  • Eat fresh foods, as they are naturally low in sodium. Try grilled vegetables or fish rather than battered and fried.
  • Ask for dressings and sauces to be served separately so you can limit the amount you use.
  • The rule of thumb when eating out is to limit salt intake to a quarter of the total salt/sodium intake for the day (about 600 mg/sodium/meal). Most restaurants have a guide listing the sodium content of their foods.
  • Take half your meal home.
  • If you can't avoid eating an occasional high-salt meal, simply reduce the portion and choose foods with less salt for other meals throughout the day. For example, if you are celebrating a special event and the meal is saltier than usual, be sure to eat lower sodium foods at other meals of the day.

Example of meals to order at the restaurant:

  • Grilled steak or chicken
  • Salad and vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar or oil served separately
  • Roasted or steamed vegetables
  • Baked potato;
  • Small bread or breadsticks (bread sticks)
  • A 125 ml (4 oz) glass of white wine
  • Fruit salad or sorbet;


The recommended fluid intake is 1500 ml (6 cups) to 2000 ml (8 cups) per day.

Patients with heart failure should reduce the amount of fluids they consume. The greater the fluid intake, the more blood the heart has to pump, which forces it to work harder. Fluid retention can further lead to swelling in the feet, legs, or abdomen, and if fluid builds up in the lungs, breathing can become difficult.


Any food or drink that is liquid at room or body temperature is considered a liquid. You should consider the following substances when calculating your daily fluid intake:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Juice
  • Soft drinks
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Soup
  • Ice cubes
  • Jell-OCM
  • Ice cream
  • Sorbet

Tips to reduce your fluid intake

  • Drain excess liquid from canned fruits.
  • Use small cups, bowls and glasses.
  • If possible, swallow your tablets with soft foods, such as yogurt or applesauce.
  • Consume liquids slowly in small sips.

You are thirsty ?

  • Eat small pieces of cold or frozen fruit, such as frozen grapes or a slice of chilled orange.
  • Brush your teeth frequently.
  • Use a refrigerated alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • Suck on hard candy or chew gum; try the sugar-free varieties.
  • Add a few drops of lemon juice to the water you drink.
  • Use a lip balm to prevent them from being dry.
  • Ask your pharmacist about artificial saliva.

Measure the liquids you ingest

Measure the liquids you ingest over a 24-hour period until you get into the habit of taking less. Pour into a pitcher an amount of water equivalent to the amount of liquids you are allowed for the day. Each time you take liquid, pour the equivalent amount of water from the pot. The amount of water left in the jar represents the amount of liquids you are entitled to until the end of the day.

Weight attributable to water retention

The weight you gain from day to day is usually due to fluid retention and not calories.

Weigh yourself every morning by following these tips:

  • Empty your bladder before weighing yourself.
  • Always weigh yourself with the same weight of clothes.
  • Weigh yourself before lunch.
  • Always use the same scale, preferably digital.
  • Record your weight each day.

Sudden weight gain can be a sign of fluid retention.

If you don't have much of an appetite

When we are sick, we sometimes have little appetite. You can lose muscle mass quickly without even trying. If you think this is your case, talk to your doctor. They may refer you to a dietitian.

Here are a few tips :

  • Eat smaller amounts of food, more often. Aim to eat every 2-3 hours.
  • Eat more when you have a good appetite.
  • Make every bite count! Eat half your plate, it's better than nothing!
  • Healthy snack ideas: whole grain crackers and peanut butter or hummus, fruit and cheese, frozen berries with granola and plain Greek yogurt, egg, chicken or tuna salad sandwich.
  • Drink milk, milkshakes, yogurt-based beverages, or take nutritional supplements like Ensure® instead of low-energy liquids like water, broth, tea, or coffee.
  • Pack easy-to-prepare meals and quick snacks for when you don't feel like cooking. Suggestions: granola bars, nuts, Greek yogurt, pudding, cheese and crackers.
  • Add fats and oils to every meal. Add a spoonful of olive or canola oil to your salads, vegetables, pasta or rice. Spread margarine or butter on your bread, vegetables or potatoes. You will improve the energy intake of your meal.
  • Avoid foods labeled as "low fat", "light", or "fat free".
  • Try adding powdered milk or protein powder to your soups, cereals, puddings, or eggs to get more protein.

Sources ofUniversity of Ottawa Heart Institute

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