Ways Cancer Patients Can Curb Their Salt Cravings

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Salt is the most common seasoning in the American diet. Many of us know that salt is not good for our health, but it is hard to resist adding it to meats, potatoes, and even vegetables. Excess sodium (from salt) in your diet can lead to health problems. Below you will find reasons to reduce your sodium intake, as well as some tips to curb common cravings for salt. It is helpful for cancer patients, cancer survivors, and caregivers to be more aware of their sodium intake in order to optimize their nutritional health.

Decrease Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a medical concern for many people. While the cause of high blood pressure, or hypertension, can run in the family, lifestyle choices can make a drastic difference.  Salt intake is a major factor in high blood pressure. Sodium causes your kidneys to hold onto water. This extra water can put a strain on many organs in your body, including your heart, which can increase your blood pressure.1 Whether you are currently undergoing cancer treatment, or are a cancer survivor, it is recommended to avoid unnecessary sodium in your diet to help prevent high blood pressure in the future. 

Minimize Swelling

Cancer treatments and medications can occasionally cause swelling, or edema, which is very uncomfortable.2 Edema can make it difficult to do everyday tasks, such as walking or standing.   Excess sodium can cause you to retain water in your legs, which can cause or worsen swelling. 2 Whether you have edema from cancer treatment, or swelling for other medical reasons, limiting your sodium intake can increase your quality of life and help you to function more easily.

Tips for Cooking with Less Sodium

There are many easy ways to flavor foods without having to add unneeded salt:

  • Use vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, and celery), herbs, lemon juice, and vinegars to flavor your food.
  • Remove the salt shaker from your table. This will prevent you from adding salt to your food as you are eating.
  • Buy fresh or frozen vegetables, in place of canned vegetables. If you are using canned vegetables, make sure you drain and rinse before using.
  • Drain and rinse canned beans or prepare and soak dried beans.
  • Choose low-sodium food options, such as soy sauce, tomato sauce and salad dressing.
  • Limit processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, canned meats and hot dogs.
  • Choose unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, which are naturally low in sodium.
  • Make your own vegetable or chicken broth if soup is comforting during treatment.

Putting It into Practice

While chicken soup is comforting and soothing when you are sick, it can be high in sodium because of the broth.  Making your own stock, like in the recipe below, decreases the sodium substantially, but also gives the soup a lighter flavor. Not only is this soup low in sodium, it is high in protein and fiber, two nutrients that are helpful to a cancer patient during treatment.

Vegetable Chicken Soup

Serves 6


1 whole chicken, cut into parts  

6 carrots, chopped  

4 celery ribs, chopped  

2 medium-size white onions halved  

1⁄2 garlic head, sliced  

2 bay leaves  

4 whole peppercorns  

Pinch of salt  

1 bunch of spinach or swiss chard, chopped  

Handful of chopped fresh parsley, thyme, or dill  


1.  Place the chicken, two-thirds of the carrots, and the celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and a pinch of salt in a large pot.  Fill the pot with cold water to cover, then bring to a boil over high heat.  

2. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, skimming off the fat from time to time.  

3.  After 1 hour, drain the stock into a separate pot. Discard the vegetables. Let the chicken cool, then chop the meat into bite-size pieces.  

4.  Add the chicken pieces, remaining chopped carrot, and greens to the stock. Place over medium heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.  

5.  Serve and garnish with your choice of herb. 

Excerpted from The Meals to Heal Cookbook by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Whether or not you are undergoing cancer treatment, there are many benefits to decreasing your sodium intake. Making small changes, such as using low sodium condiments and limiting processed meats, can make a big difference in the amount of sodium you consume and benefit your health. Many of these changes are so small, that you and your family won’t notice the change, but rather will enjoy a tasty and healthier bite.


  1. Salt’s effect on your body. Blood Pressure UK. Accessed July 5, 2018.
  2. Edema. Mayo Clinic. Accessed July 5, 2018.

Susan Bratton 

Founder and Chief Executive Officer 

Susan founded Savor Health in 2011 after a career on Wall Street where she represented and focused exclusively on early and growth stage healthcare services and insurance companies. During her tenure on Wall Street, Susan was a member of the healthcare groups at firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Robertson Stephens and Wasserstein, Perella & Co.

Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management. She is actively involved in a number of industry associations including Women Business Leaders in Healthcare. She also serves on the Advisory Board of HCap, the national leading venue for healthcare providers and capital to meet and is the Secretary for Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee. In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally on the role of proper nutrition in the cancer patient at industry association meetings as well as advocacy group summits and other oncology meetings.

Her work in oncology extends beyond Savor Health and speaking on the role of nutrition to her volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

Jessica A. lannotta

MS, RD, CSO, CDN, Chief Operating Officer

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master’s degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Jessica is in charge of all operations, including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dietitians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.

If you enjoyed this recipe there are plenty more in our Meals to Heal Cookbook–written to meet the unique needs of cancer patients and caregivers and offering 150 recipes to make eating less stressful, more convenient, and simply more enjoyable. Created by oncology-credentialed registered dietitians, these delicious, nourishing, easy-to-prepare dishes are full of the nutrients you need to maintain strength during treatment. Loaded with essential nutrition info and recipes coded by common symptoms and side effects (including fatigue, nausea, digestive issues, mouth sores, taste and smell aversion, and others).

Savor Health is a trusted cancer nutrition expert that patients, caregivers and healthcare enterprises rely on for safe, effective and evidence-based nutrition information and programs. Savor Health is working to put an end to the one third of cancer deaths due to severe malnutrition by providing cancer patients and survivors with individualized disease-specific nutrition solutions through nutritional counseling, menu planning, customized recipes and a 150 recipe cookbook – Meals to Heal.

To learn more about Savor Health please visit

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