How to Get Low Sodium Chinese Food

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Traditional Chinese food is tasty, and no one can deny that. These meals are normally well seasoned with such things as ginger, garlic, and other traditional seasonings. 

While maintaining much of their original flavors, Chinese restaurants operating in the west have found ways to make their meals appreciated by people with a Western taste. 

The things that they have done to make their meals suit the palate of the west have resulted in a significant increase in sodium. Many people who consume Chinese food have no idea how much sodium in Chinese food. 

If they had a knowledge of this, they would be more diligent in identifying and ordering low sodium Chinese foods.


What is Sodium?

According to WebMD sodium can be defined as a mineral that is found in much of the food we eat on a daily basis. 

While table salt (sodium chloride) is not directly equivalent to sodium, it is the largest source of the mineral. We could get a little more technical, but we will leave it there for now. (1)

 

Daily Requirement of Sodium

How much sodium should you eat daily? In an educational pamphlet published in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. 

Just to put this into perspective: 2,300 milligrams of sodium is the equivalent of a single teaspoon of table salt. According to the United States-based organization, this will promote health. 

The pamphlet also highlighted the fact that most adults are eating way more sodium than they should on a daily basis. 

The average amount of sodium that an adult eats daily is more than 3,400 milligrams. (2) (3) (4)

 

The Role of Sodium in the Body

While sodium we hardly have less sodium than we need in our diet, it must still be noted that sodium plays an important role in the body. 

Sodium is among the electrolytes that your body needs. It creates an electrically charged ion when it dissolves in your blood. 

Electrolytes are needed by our bodies to support nerve impulses and regulate many body functions. 

These body functions include heart rate management, proper digestion, efficient respiration, proper brain activity, and blood pressure management.

Not having enough sodium in your body can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia. 

The symptoms of hyponatremia include cramps, nausea, regurgitation, dizziness, and even death. This is why it is advised that you ensure that you get enough salt on a daily basis. (5) (6

 

The Sodium Content of Chinese Food

Let us discuss how much sodium in Chinese food. In an article published in 2018, Dana Dovey of Newsweek shared that some Chinese-food meals have a higher sodium content than 5 big macs from McDonald’s. (7)

In her article, she cites an analysis that was done on the sodium content of Chinese food. During the analysis, takeout meals from six different restaurants were analyzed.

The research revealed that 97% of the meals that they tested had 2,000 milligrams or much more salt per dish. They also reported that 58% of the dishes that they analyzed contained more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium. 

These are serious numbers. When you measure this against the recommendation from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you will find that a standard meal from a Chinese restaurant will have just about all the sodium you need for the day. 

The dish that Dana Dovey found to be equivalent to eating 5 big macs from McDonald’s was Beef in Black Bean Sauce and Vegetable Noodles. If you ever buy Chinese food again, keep in mind that this option is not a low sodium Chinese food.

Another issue with the standard Chinese food meal prepared in the west is that many chefs use monosodium glutamate or MSG. 

This is often used to accentuate flavors and make the overall taste of the meal much better. 

This along with their liberal use of table salt are truly the culprits of the high sodium content of Chinese food. 

These are already problematic, but the sodium level of your meal takes another serious boost when soy sauce is added. 

Whether you believe it or not, a single teaspoon of soy sauce can increase the sodium content of your takeout meal from your favorite Chinese restaurant by 1,000 milligrams. 

If you want to enjoy low sodium Chinese foods, don’t add soy sauce to your meal.

 

Low Sodium Chinese Food

The truth is, the noodles, meats, and vegetables you enjoy at the many Chinese restaurants across the country, are laden with salt. 

The salt level is due to the added salt, enhancers, mixes of spices, marinades and, of course, sauces. 

It is difficult to find low sodium Chinese foods. One of the best ways to enjoy Chinese food that have low sodium content is to make it on your own. 

So, get those pots out, find a recipe for your favorite Chinese meal and prepare it. If you are not interested in preparing the meal on your own, there are some tips that you can follow to minimize the amount of salt you are eating.

Let us discuss some of the things you can do to have less salt when you want to eat your favorite Chinese meal. When you are eating out or ordering take-out, only purchase options that are prepared fresh. 

Be sure to avoid those options that have been pre-marinated or sitting in heavy sauce. Some of the best items that constitute low sodium Chinese foods are grilled foods. 

When you take advantage of orders that are freshly made, you get the opportunity to request low-salt and ingredients that are not overloaded with sodium. 

To find out ways to cut back on salt at your favorite Chinese restaurant is to ask your waiter exactly how the meals are prepared.

In addition to asking the chef to cut back on the salt or not use salt at all, you must demonstrate discipline in not adding salt to the dish when it gets to your table. 

This would defeat the entire purpose of instructing the chef to avoid adding salt to your meal.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest things to add to a Chinese meal is soy sauce. If you must have it, and we do understand why you must have it, choose a low-sodium soy sauce. 

Keep this in mind if you are going to be preparing your very own low sodium Chinese food.

Another way to secure Chinese food with less sodium is to tell your waiter to not use MSG in the preparation of the meal. 

This adds more sodium to your overall dish. While MSG enhances the taste of food significantly, you do not need the added sodium. It should also be noted that MSG also presents other health risks.


What about Chinese white rice?

Well, the white rice is usually made without a lot of salt. You will find that the average serving of Chinese white rice will contain approximately 7 milligrams of salt. Based on this, white rice may be the best option if you want low sodium Chinese food.


Best Low Sodium Chinese Foods

We do not want to scare you away from indulging your desire for lovely Chinese food. It is just wise that you select options that have the least sodium. This is especially true if you eat Chinese food quite often. 

Here are some of the best low sodium Chinese food options:


Stir-fried Vegetables: this is one of the most common options at a Chinese restaurant and most people love it. 

The good news is that it is one of the options that have the lowest amount of sodium on the typical chinse restaurant’s menu. 

To ensure that you get the lowest amount of sodium, inform your waiter that you would like the chef to use as little salt as possible or no salt at all.


Steamed Rice: if you have ever had Chinese food before, you will be able to speak to the fact that the steamed rice that they typically serve is low on salt. 

This is great news for individuals who are concerned about how much sodium in Chinese food. The typical ½-cup serving of rice only contains about 4 milligrams, according to the USDA Nutrient Database.


Steamed Tofu: if a Chinese restaurant does not serve tofu, you probably need to leave and find another place to purchase your food. 

Tofu is a classic in Chinese culinary culture. Choosing steamed tofu as opposed to fried or stir-fried tofu will keep the sodium level of your Chinese meal pretty low. 

To ensure that the optimum level of sodium is maintained, avoid adding sauce to your steamed tofu.


Dumplings: these incredible appetizers are a popular treat at Chinese restaurants. The great thing about them is that they are low in sodium. They are a much better option than fried wonton. 

Instead of purchasing dumplings with pork or beef, order dumplings that contain vegetables or fish. 

You will have less sodium when you stick to dumplings containing vegetable or fish.

The next time you go to a Chinese restaurant, choose these options as opposed to some of the other options that are loaded with sodium. 

Too much sodium can greatly impair your health and make your life miserable. Low sodium Chinese food can be enjoyable while being somewhat healthy.


Negative Effects of Consuming Too Much Salt

A 2015 study done by Rebecca J Suckling and Pauline A Swift, suggest that eating too much salt has contributed to the proliferation of high blood pressure. 

Another study conducted in 2018 by Izzat Alawwa, Rajaa Dagash, Akram Saleh, and Abdelaziz Ahmada suggests that high salt intake is a “silent killer”. 

They highlighted that high salt intake was responsible for the deaths of 2.3 million people across the world in 2010.

Excess sodium in your diet will increase your blood pressure. This happens as a result of the tendency of sodium to hold excess fluid in the body. 

This results in your heart being overworked. As a result of this, you will have a higher risk of having a stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, certain cancers, and even kidney disease.

As many as 70 million people living in the United States of America are tackling hypertension. 

These individuals would be better off if they choose to adopt a low-sodium diet. Many studies have shown that a reduction in sodium has a positive effect on hypertension. (8) (9)

 

Conclusion

Being health-conscious does not mean that you cannot enjoy a great meal of Chinese food. 

what it means is that you must be aware of the amount of sodium that you will be ingesting if you choose to have Chinese food. 

while Chinese food can be quite rich in sodium, there are things that you can do to reduce the salt content of your meal and turn your meal into a low sodium Chinese food. 

This will help to ensure that you do not blow your entire day’s budget of sodium on a single meal.

Sodium is not all bad. as recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should keep your salt intake below 2,300 milligrams; however, major health issues can result from completely depriving your body of the salt that it needs.

When you make your next trip to a Chinese restaurant, remember the list of options with the lowest content. 

Also, keep in mind the tips shared in this article on how to reduce the salt content of your favorite Chinese meal.

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