Sneaky Sodium

According to WebMd, five high-sodium foods — not all of them salty tasting — are a big reason why nine in 10 Americans get way too much sodium every day. (That’s 90%!!!) New CDC data show that only 9.6% of U.S. adults limit their daily sodium intake to recommended levels.

So, where’s all that sodium coming from?

From salt, mostly. But only 10% of it comes from our shakers. An estimated 77% comes from sodium in processed or restaurant foods.”All food categories contribute to sodium intake. But grains and meat — the foods we eat most — contribute the most sodium,” Elena V. Kuklina, MD, PhD, senior service fellow at the CDC’s division of heart disease and stroke prevention, tells WebMD.

But the CDC report identifies five foods that give Americans most of their salt:

  1. Yeast breads
  2. Chicken and mixed chicken dinners
  3. Pizza
  4. Pasta dishes
  5. Cold cuts

The three food groups from which we get the most sodium include some surprises:

  1. Grains contribute 37% of our daily sodium. These foods include grain-based frozen meals and soups, breads, and pizza (which is mostly salty bread).
  2. Meats, including poultry and fish, contribute 28% of our daily sodium.
  3. Vegetables contribute more than 12% of our daily sodium. This seems surprising, but potato chips and french fries are vegetables. And canned vegetables, vegetable soups, and vegetable sauces tend to be loaded with salt.

Salt Shockers: High-Sodium Foods

Basic U.S. dietary guidelines suggest that adults get less than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day, but the basic guidelines apply to fewer than a third of Americans. The rest — 70% of the population — are middle aged, elderly, or African-American. This huge majority should get less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. But the average American gets more than twice the recommended daily dose of sodium: 3,466 milligrams of sodium per day. This means we’re at risk of dangerously raising our blood pressure.

That high blood pressure increases our risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. The CDC calculates that if everyone followed sodium-intake guidelines there would be as many as 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease and up to 66,000 fewer strokes each year.

What can we do?

  • Eat less processed food.
  • Eat more fresh and frozen vegetables.
  • Compare labels to choose low-sodium foods (and don’t be fooled by deceptive labels).
  • When using canned vegetables or beans, rinse the food well with water to remove as much salt as possible.

Do you watch your sodium intake?


37 Responses

  1. I have started to try to pay more attention. I was amazed at how much sodium was in simple things. Sort of like sugar in peanut butter – why?

  2. Haha, I totally have to add salt to everything. I guess that’s what low blood pressure/not eating many processed foods results in. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love a good salty yeast bread or pasta dish if ever they were gluten-free. But as is vegetables have no sodium.

  3. i was totally shocked at how much sodium there is in cottage cheese. i had no idea!

  4. I don’t really watch my sodium- although I never add salt to really anything. I’m just not a ‘salt’ kinda person. Usually if something has too much salt, I will toss it out. I can’t tolerate it.

  5. Oh man…I am such a sucker for salt. I need to start cutting back, but now that I’ve gotten used to adding it to everything, food tastes so bland without it!

  6. My mum always taught us to watch our sodium intake. I never put salt on food at restaurants and rarely do at home (unless I’m the one cooking). My taste buds are used to it by now!

    – Beth @

  7. I try to watch my sodium, but it’s so hard. It’s in everything! Thanks for the tips šŸ™‚

  8. i never add salt to anything and i try to buy lower-sodium products when i can.

    then on the weekend i drink like a fish. damn it.

  9. I am definitely watching my sodium lately! I was starting to have a heavy hand with it and now I am trying to be more careful. Salt is addictive!

  10. I have tried to watch my sodium, but honestly, it’s not a big deal to me. I’m don’t add salt to things, and I sweat a lot and work out a lot and I try to limit things like processed foods, so hopefully I’m doing ok.

    • Trutfully, I am the same way. I don’t really monitor my intake either. But I don’t eat a lot of processed foods either and I sweat like a beast throughout my workouts so I figure I am doing okay too! šŸ˜‰

  11. What about after a heavy sweat session? I feel like I need to add some salt to my foods….

    • I think this is when you should listen to your body. I ALWAYS crave salt after long hard workout sessions. Usually I try to get a natural sports drink (like coconut water) that has electrolytes because that is REALLY what the body is craving. You lose a lot of electrolytes via sweat.

  12. Those sneaky cans and cold cuts. Dern! Some of the frozen meals are gawd awful. I always thought diet sodas were jerks.

    It’s something I don’t pay attention to enough.

  13. I stopped having to worry about sodium since I cut out processed foods. And I usually buy low or no-sodium canned tomatoes and beans, so if I want to add salt to something I don’t feel bad about it. It’s nice being in control. šŸ˜‰

    And after all this, I actually think my tolerance of sodium has gone down! Soy sauce that isn’t low-sodium is totally unpalatable now!

  14. Oh yes… I’ve briefly mentioned this before and am always careful when picking up processed foods because of it. I can definitely tell when I get too much- it just makes me feel gross all over.

  15. I never watch my sodium intake. I don’t eat processed food often and I sweat a TON. I actually crave salty foods sometimes!

  16. Thanks to growing up in Spain I eat so salty food. I try so hard to not add salt to my food but I am so addicted… I am trying now with a salt that is a mix of herbs and salt so taht I would get used to less salty taste.

  17. WOW this is soo crazy!!!I really need to cut down on sodium! Haha – my doctor tells me to eat it tho.. so im so confused! lol!

    • You should DEFINITELY listen to your doctor. He is the one who has access to your blood work and other medical information and if he says you need it then you must! šŸ™‚

  18. I dont watch my sodium intake necessarily, but I do try and make sure I dont get too much. I know that was a total contradiction, but it makes sense to me. On a daily basis I dont pay much attention. But when Im grocery shopping Im careful about reading labels. A few weeks ago I was going to buy some chicken stock, and it had more sodium in it than my salt. How is that even possible?

  19. Very interesting post! I had no idea that yeast breads were a significant source of sodium!

    I consider myself very mindful of everything in my diet–except salt! I know I should be more careful, but my blood pressure has always been extremely low, and I sweat a lot during my daily workouts, so I tend not to worry. Probably not the best approach though!

  20. I don’t eat much in the way of processed foods but I do add salt to a lot of fresh foods. I’m a major salter but also a major sweater. It all evens out in my book.

  21. A couple of years ago, I had borderline high blood pressure. The doc wanted me on meds, but I promised to fix the problem myself…and I did it! Besides weight loss and exercise, I cut out most frozen meals and began watching sodium closely. I still watch my intake and try to buy reduced sodium versions of sauces and canned items whenever possible.

  22. I never used to salt anythign I made, but these days I find that I crave salt. I live in the desert, so I assume that it is my body being smart, and I go with it. I don’t track it, but I doubt I get too much; I rarely eat processed foods, and anything that I buy in a can I get the no sodium added or I rinse. I make my beans from dry…mostly because I am cheap. šŸ˜€

  23. Salt scares me! I’ve only recently started looking at the content, which is pretty embarrassing. It’s amazing to see how much is put in sauces, cheeses, chips, crackers, etc! Like you said – limit the processed!

  24. I have to be honest, I don’t really watch my sodium intake, but like you, I don’t eat many processed foods. It is very sneaky but if you limit the processed foods, it’s not so bad.

  25. interesting! i never would have guessed that veggies would be in the top three. sodium is one area that i don’t pay much attention to. i rarely add salt to anything so i figure that i am ok.

  26. I agree that cutting out processed foods helps a lot. I made the decision to no longer buy frozen dinners and it’s made a difference for me

  27. i just try not to eat too many packaged items and take out dishes. good info!

  28. I have super low blood pressure so salt really isn’t an issue for me, plus I don’t eat much that I don’t personally cook!

  29. Ah sodium…it IS so sneaky. I’ve recently started attempting to find lunchmeats with the lowest sodium counts, like organic + NO preservative meats – I love Applegate farms stuff šŸ™‚

    Processed food is definitely limited in my choices, but sometimes I do have to cave in, but fresh is where it’s at šŸ˜€

  30. I watch my sodium intake sometimes. I used to not care about sodium, but now that I am more aware of it, I rarely eat frozen meals and I find it hard to buy soup b/c of all the sodium!!!
    Great post!! I was not aware of all of those statistics and I really enjoy that kind of information. Thanks for sharing!!

  31. My mom is always checking food labels and announcing how much sodium a food contains. While I don’t really keep track of anything, I do notice that I get really thirsty when I eat higher sodium (salty) foods.

  32. Oh salt. My bff. I’m such a salty sweater (like I am covered in white cakes of salt after a run) that I tell myself it isn’t an issue. But, I think that only goes for so long…

    That said, I do take in salt tablets on long bike rides and triathlons. I cramp up otherwise.

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