Edema involves swelling of the tissues which occurs as excess fluid is retained inside the body. Various medical conditions and dietary factors can contribute to edema. Depending on the exact cause, the main dietary method for minimizing edema involves limiting the intake of sodium.
The initial step is to pinpoint which foods are high in sodium and which foods are low in sodium. Increasing the intake of low-sodium foods will not help if the individual continues to consume other foods that are packed with sodium.
Link between edema and sodium
Sodium is the main mineral present in table salt which has a vital role in maintaining fluid balance. Once there is excess of this essential mineral in the body, the tissues retain water to balance the fluid-sodium ratio.
This is why the individual feels bloated after consuming a high-salt meal. Among healthy individuals, maintaining a moderate intake of sodium can minimize or prevent fluid retention. As for those who have severe edema due to chronic conditions such as kidney, heart or liver failure, minimizing the amount of sodium can help the body release some of the stored up fluids.
Individuals who have severe or chronic edema must restrict the intake of sodium to 2,000 mg or less in a day.
The foods that are less than 140 mg of sodium per portion are labelled as low-sodium foods while the high-sodium options have more than 400 mg per serving. Essentially, a food that is less processed has lower sodium content.
Frozen or fresh vegetables and fruits are naturally low in sodium and some dairy products such as yogurt and milk might be considered as low-sodium. It is vital to watch out for cheese and cottage cheese since these contain more sodium due to processing.
Grains such as oats, rice and pasta are naturally low in sodium but several highly processed grain products such as bagels, bread, pancakes or cereals are higher in sodium. Fish, fresh meats and poultry have naturally low amounts of sodium but avoid those that contain added salt via marinades, seasonings or injected solutions.
Why should I avoid high-sodium foods?
Sticking with a low-sodium diet not only involves adding more low-sodium foods, but also reducing the intake of high-sodium foods. This can be done by reducing the use of salt. Remember that salt is just one part of the issue since only a small percentage comes from preparation while a high percentage comes from eating prepared and pre-packaged foods. As for the remaining percentage, they naturally occur in foods that grow in the ground.
Even though reducing the amount of salt used can reduce the intake of sodium, it is vital to reduce the consumption of processed foods as well. You can season the food using spices or herbs instead of salt and avoid foods that are prepared with sauces or seasonings.
How to balance the diet
The edema can be managed by focusing on a balanced diet that is packed with foods that are naturally low in sodium and avoid those that are high in sodium.
An individual with edema irrespective of the cause can greatly gain from eating less highly processed and pre-packaged foods that contains added salt, seasonings and preservatives. It is vital to stick with a diet that includes frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, fresh meat, fish, nuts, slightly process grains, beans and legumes.