Reducing the sodium content in high sodium foods is easier than you think. I’m sharing tips that might enable you to enjoy some of your favorite foods in moderation again.
All of the recipes and posts on SaltSanity.com are intended to offer general information and recipes for individuals looking to lead a low sodium lifestyle. This information DOES NOT follow or endorse any specific medical guidelines for your health and diet needs or individual sodium restrictions. Check with your doctor or other medical professional to obtain guidance for your individual sodium and dietary needs.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with a condition that requires you to transition to a low sodium diet, you likely have a pantry or fridge full of foods that are no longer healthy for you to consume. Your first thought might be to throw those foods away, but you may not have to. A simple process called demineralization – I promise it sounds more complicated than it is – can make these items safer for you to eat.
What is Demineralization?
Demineralization is the process of removing certain minerals, in this case, sodium, from foods high in salt. It can also be helpful if you don’t have easy access to stores that carry No Salt Added items. Demineralization uses water, temperature, and time to remove excess sodium from foods. If you’re on a low sodium diet due to kidney issues, demineralization can also reduce the amount of potassium and phosphorus in foods.
To demineralize foods, you rinse or soak them in water for a specific amount of time. The temperature of the water and the amount of time you rinse or soak them will vary depending on the food.
You can get more details on demineralization here with complete step-by-step instructions for some foods here.
This study from The Journal of Renal Nutrition provides additional details on demineralization and its effect on sodium content.
What Foods Can I Demineralize?
You can demineralize high sodium foods like canned beans, canned vegetables, bacon, hot dogs, and ham.
I grew up (and still occasionally crave) eating boiled hot dogs. Little did I know we were demineralizing them as we boiled them! NxStage Kidney Care reports that you can reduce up to 60% of the sodium in hot dogs by boiling them in water for 7 minutes. One hot dog can contain more than 500 mg of sodium. A 60% reduction would bring one hot dog’s sodium count down to 200 mg, a number that may work for many low sodium diets. Click here for step-by-step instructions from NxStage Kidney Care on demineralizing hot dogs.
Ham and bacon are foods most people on a low sodium diet avoid due to their high sodium content. They’re both cured in salt, a technique used in the days before refrigeration to preserve the meat. To reduce sodium in an uncooked ham, place it in a large pot or bowl. Cover it with cold water and place it in the fridge for 12-36 hours. The longer you soak the ham, the more sodium will be removed. Changing the soaking water every four hours is important to prevent bacteria growth. Smithfield Marketplace offers detailed instructions on soaking your uncooked ham here.
Canned beans may not have made the Salty Six list, but they are definitely a high sodium food. A half cup of canned beans can contain as much as 500 mg of sodium. According to the Bean Institute, draining the beans and rinsing them in cool water for 10 seconds can remove as much as 40% of the sodium.
Rinsing other canned vegetables can reduce their sodium content, as well. The process of demineralizing canned green beans takes about an hour but can eliminate as much as 81% of the sodium. You can get step-by-step instructions here.
FAQs about Reducing Sodium in Foods High in Sodium
Besides removing sodium and other minerals, how does demineralization affect my food?
Demineralizing food causes it to spoil faster, so you need to cook, eat and refrigerate it within 24 hours. You can also freeze your food to use at a later time. You may also notice a change in the texture of some foods after you’ve soaked or rinsed them. Canned items are likely to be softer. It’s important to pat foods completely dry before cooking after soaking or rinsing them.
Can I cut the sodium in foods without demineralizing?
Can you remove sodium from foods without going through this process? No, but you can reduce the amount of sodium per serving by mixing your high sodium foods with their lower sodium version. If you have cans of vegetables you bought before transitioning to a low sodium lifestyle, combine them with a no salt added version before serving them. This way, you’re not wasting food, and you’re reducing the amount of sodium per serving.
Are there other ways to reduce sodium in my diet?
Absolutely! Check out my six simple tips for reducing sodium in your diet here.