Hi there! My name is Isabella Tsue and I am one of the Healthy Mission Dietitian’s mentees participating in a Registered Dietitian Mentorship Program organized by the University of Northern Florida. Throughout this mentorship, I have learned about the role of a dietitian and the Asian community and nutrition. Edith Yang, RD, CSR, CLT, FAND, the owner of Healthy Mission Dietitian, has also been guiding me in creating more resources for the Asian Community and those that enjoy Asian foods.
Both Edith and I identify as Asian-American and we both noticed that the healthcare system in the United States lacks nutrition resources for the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. I hope that this article and the downloadable PDFs below are helpful!
Finding low-sodium Asian condiments can be difficult, especially when one wants to preserve the authenticity of the dish while being mindful of their sodium intake to maintain their chronic conditions such as chronic kidney disease (CKD) and heart disease. This article focuses on sodium and its role in kidney and heart disease.
Sodium’s Role in the Body
Sodium is a mineral that has an important role in helping to maintain blood pressure and volume of blood. It also helps nerves signal and participates in muscle contraction. Aside from those important roles sodium does, too much sodium can cause an increase in blood pressure and put you at risk for heart disease and kidney disease, which are conditions prevalent in the AAPI community.
How Sodium Intake Affects People with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
People with CKD may experience high blood pressure because of their sodium retention and fluid build-up. Having a decrease in kidney function means it is harder for the kidneys to get rid of extra sodium and fluids. Fluid and sodium accumulation is linked to not only high blood pressure but also hypertension. High blood pressure can cause you to have swelling and difficulty breathing and if left uncontrolled, can damage your kidneys and other organs.
The good news is there is a way to help control blood pressure by minimizing salt intake. Sodium recommendations are personalized but in general, it is recommended to limit to less than 2300 mg per day.
CKD can be accelerated by a high salt intake that leads to chronic high blood pressure so be careful with how much salt you are intaking! Try to use herbs, seasonings, spices, and low-sodium sauces when cooking.
How Sodium Affects the Heart
Sodium increases blood pressure, which increases the risk for CKD but also affects the heart and blood vessels.
There is a correlation between higher sodium intake and risks for stroke and cardiovascular disease (CVD or heart disease). High blood pressure can cause injury to your blood vessels and cause plaque to build up. Excessive sodium intake can lead to other heart conditions such as left ventricular hypertrophy (the main chamber thickens) and fibrosis (scar tissue on the heart).
Sodium, CKD, Heart Disease and the Asian Community
CKD and heart disease are prevalent in the AAPI community. This may primarily be due to the use of high sodium seasonings/flavorings that are used in many traditional Asians. Our goal is to empower and educate the AAPI community and those that enjoy Asian cuisine that excessive sodium intake may impact their health.
I hope to learn more about issues impacting the AAPI community and investigate them with various lenses. I am interested in learning more about the food industry and investigating foods that contribute to the high sodium intake of my community.
Low Sodium Alternatives
I created some handouts for some low-sodium alternatives that you can use when cooking your favorite Asian dishes.
These handouts will be useful to refer to when it comes to adding flavor to your dishes. You will find soy sauce alternatives and soy sauces that are lower in sodium, and a handout comparing regular soy sauce to the suggested soy sauces/alternatives. Handouts highlighting low-sodium chili/spicy sauces are also included. Please feel welcome to share these with your friends and family!
Click here to be taken to my folder of downloadable PDFs
- Appel, L.J., MD. et. al. The Importance of Population-Wide Sodium Reduction as a Means to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. American Heart Association Journals. 2011, 123, 1138-1143. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0b013e31820d0793. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022
- Borrelli, S. et. al. Sodium Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2020, 21, 4744. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7369961/. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022
- Smyth, A. et. al. Sodium intake and renal outcomes: a systematic review. Am J Hypertens. 2014, 27, 1277-84. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24510182/. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022
- https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/articles/basics/sodium-and-chronic-kidney-disease. Accessed Feb. 1, 2022