We don’t mean to be salty, but it’s hard to hide from sodium. The average American eats a lot more sodium than the recommended amount in the daily diet. The recommended intake is no more than 2,300 milligrams, but 1,500 milligrams is even better. But what do you eat on an average? Nearly 3,400 milligrams a day… almost double the amount!
More than 75% of this amount comes from processed foods, but it might not always be obvious. Most processed foods hide scary amounts of salt.1
What’s Wrong With Too Much?
Sodium is a mineral that controls fluid balance. Too much of it brings water into your blood vessels, letting more blood flow through. This increases the blood pressure.2 Blood pressure, in turn, is a major risk factor for America’s leading cause of death – heart disease.3
High sodium also increases oxidative stress and excretion of albumin, a protein in the blood. The kidneys also take a hit. This is because they typically eliminate excess sodium, but too much of it can lead to damage.4
Foods That Are Secretly High In Salt
Most of our sodium intake doesn’t come from the salt shaker. It adds up really fast, especially when you eat out. Here are 7 foods that should be on your radar.
1. Jarred Pasta Sauce
A jar of pasta sauce is packed with convenience… and sodium. Even using something as seemingly harmless as canned tomato sauce can give you 750 milligrams of sodium in just 1/2 a cup of sauce.5
Why not make pasta sauce from scratch instead? It might seem intimidating, but all you need to do is cut, sauté, and simmer the ingredients. Use fresh spices instead of salt.
2. BBQ Sauce
Every brand is different, but two tablespoons of BBQ sauce can have around 300 milligrams of sodium. Top that with 7 grams of sugar and you’ve got yourself a scary sauce.6 But who eats just two tablespoons? BBQ sauce is often used as a marinade, so the sodium piles up fast. Look for low-sodium versions or make your own.
3. Corn Flakes
Cereal is rarely linked to sodium. However, 1 cup of corn flakes can have around 270 milligrams of sodium.7 Flavored and children’s cereals can have even more. Reach for oats instead. One cup has only 3 milligrams!8
4. Wheat Bagel
In just 1 wheat bagel, you’ll get 430 milligrams of sodium.9 That’s not even counting the cheese, meat, or ketchup. Can’t live without these breakfast sandwiches? Use a small wheat pita. Even at 148 milligrams, the count is less than a bagel.10
5. Vegetable Juice
It sounds healthy, but store-bought veggie juice is bad news. One cup of canned juice has about 428 milligrams of sodium (and 7.19 grams of sugar).11 Manufacturers use these ingredients to add flavor on the cheap. You can buy low-sodium versions, but the best kind is homemade. Invest in a juicer so you can use fresh veggies and hold the salt.
6. Nut Butter
Nut butter might be a “health food,” but it should only have one ingredient: nuts. Some brands add salt for extra flavor. For example, two tablespoons of chunky peanut butter can have 136 milligrams of sodium.12 Instead, look for unsalted kinds or make your own. It’s fresh and so much tastier.
7. Salad Dressing
Commercial dressings are a great way to sabotage a salad. For example, one tablespoon of regular Italian dressing has 146 milligrams of sodium. A cup has 2334 milligrams!13
For a healthier version, mix two parts olive oil and one part vinegar. Add spices, herbs, and garlic. Craving something creamy? Blend avocado and olive oil.
Every brand and food is different, so always check food labels. When possible, make it at home! This will let you control how much salt is used.
|↑1||How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day? American Heart Association.|
|↑2||Sodium And Your Health. American Heart Association.|
|↑3||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑4||Whelton, Paul K., Lawrence J. Appel, Ralph L. Sacco, Cheryl AM Anderson, Elliott M. Antman, Norman Campbell, Sandra B. Dunbar et al. “Sodium, blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.” Circulation 126, no. 24 (2012): 2880-2889.|
|↑5||How much sodium do foods contain? Government Of Prince Edward Island.|
|↑6||Full Report (All Nutrients): 45057360, BBQ SAUCE, UPC: 186905000069. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑7||Cereal, corn flakes, ready-to-eat, dry. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑8||Basic Report: 20038, Oats. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑9||Basic Report: 18968, Bagels, wheat. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑10||Basic Report: 18042, Bread, pita, whole-wheat. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑11||Basic Report: 11578, Vegetable juice cocktail, canned. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑12||Basic Report: 16097, Peanut butter, chunk style, with salt. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑13||Basic Report: 04114, Salad dressing, italian dressing, commercial, regular. United States Department of Agriculture.|