Hidden Sodium in your Diet

Hidden Sodium in our diets

You have been working hard on lowering your blood pressure by not using table salt in your recipes, you’re using salt substitutes, you’re finding alternatives to spice your food instead of picking up the salt shaker, but are you aware of the total amount of hidden sodium we consume in a day?

We know that high blood pressure can lead to diseases like coronary heart disease or stroke.

According to the Heart Association “more than 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from salt added to processed foods”. If we are not observant on the sodium content of the foods we are eating, we can fool ourselves into thinking we are doing really well.

“Sodium shows up in canned soups, salad dressings, and even products that don’t immediately come to mind when we think of ‘salty’ foods, such as pasta, bread and cereals,” said Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., .a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a volunteer for the American Heart Association. 

The American Heart Association recommends that we only get 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, it may surprise you to find out that the average American gets more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. It’s estimated that the body needs less than 500 mg sodium a day to perform its functions.   

Knowing how to read Nutrition Fact Labels is a good start to monitoring how much sodium we are having each day. According to The American Heart Association, to have a “sodium free or salt free” claim on the label, a product cannot exceed 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.  A product with a “low sodium” claim must not exceed 140 mg per serving.  A “no salt added or unsalted” claim on the label does not mean the food is “sodium free.”  Compare food labels and choose the product with the lowest amount of sodium.

The American Heart Association Heart-Check mark tells the consumer that this food can be part a heart-healthy diet. More about this Heart-Check Mark can be found on their web site at www.Heart.org.

Eating out can be challenging but customizing your plate with low sodium foods, or asking if your food can be prepared without added sodium will help control the amount of sodium consumed.

Here’s a look at some of the saltiest foods we eat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some on the list might surprise you. 
  1. Bread and rolls. We all know bread adds carbohydrates and calories, but salt, too? It may not seem like it because a lot of bread doesn’t even taste salty, but one piece can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. That’s 15 percent of the recommended amount from only one slice, and it adds up quickly. Have a sandwich and muffin in one day? The bread alone could put you at about 1,000 milligrams of salt – or two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sodium limit of 1,500 milligrams.  Be sure to check the nutrition label as different brands of the same foods may have differing sodium levels.
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats. Even foods that would otherwise be considered healthy may have high levels of sodium. Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium.  They have so much because most cooked meats would spoil in only a few days without the added sodium solution. Look for lower sodium varieties.
  3. Pizza. OK, everybody knows pizza’s not exactly a health food. But you’re probably thinking the big concerns are cholesterolfat and calories. But pizza’s plenty salty, too. One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium. It doesn’t take a whole lot of math to realize two or three slices alone can send you way over the daily sodium recommendation. You may want to have fewer slices of pizza topped with vegetables and cut back on the cheese.
  4. Poultry. Surely chicken can’t be bad for you, right? Well, it depends on how the chicken is prepared. Reasonable portions of lean, skinless grilled chicken are great. But when you start serving up the chicken nuggets or poultry injected with added sodium solutions/marinades, the sodium starts adding up. Just 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets can add nearly 600 milligrams of sodium. (And most people probably aren’t stopping at 3 ounces.)  Check labels to be sure you are selecting the lower sodium version and that there are no added sodium solutions.
  5. Soup. This is another one of those foods that seems perfectly healthy. It can’t be bad if Mom gave it to you for the sniffles, right? But when you take a look at the nutrition label for some products, though, it’s easy to see how too much soup can quickly turn into a sodium overload. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 milligrams of sodium.  Look for lower sodium options. They taste just as good!
  6. Sandwiches. This covers everything from grilled cheese to hamburgers. We already know that bread and cured meat are heavy on the sodium. Add them together, and you can pretty easily surpass 1,500 milligrams of sodium in one sitting.   Top sandwiches with plenty of vegetables, such as lettuce, tomato and cucumbers.