Silent Sodium in Our Favorite Eats

April 06, 2016

Salt has received a bad rap in recent years. And rightly so — it has been linked to everything from rising blood-pressure levels to cancer.

Salt has received a bad rap in recent years. And rightly so — it has been linked to everything from rising blood-pressure levels to cancer.

Like many things in life, though — think about alcohol, sugar and high-carb foods such as bread and pasta — it has received a bad reputation through over-consumption.

In fact, salt, like water, is absolutely essential to our health. Without enough salt, we can suffer deep fatigue, dehydration, hyperthyroidism and even death.

Salt, both natural and common salt, is a preservative and flavor-enhancer in foods. But why do nine out of ten Americans consume far beyond the recommended intake of sodium every day? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the culprit is processed and restaurant foods- even those foods that don't necessarily taste salty!

General U.S. dietary guidelines suggest that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, but this applies to fewer than one third of Americans. The rest, a whopping 70 percent of the population -middle aged, elderly, or African-American- should consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. The CDC calculates that if everyone followed these guidelines there would be as many as 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease and up to 66,000 fewer strokes each year.

So, where is the sodium coming from? Most all of our food contributes to daily sodium intake, but a whopping 77 percent comes from processed and restaurant foods while only about 10 percent comes from the shaker. A recent CDC update names five foods that seem to be staples in the American diet as contributing the most sodium.

Yeast breads: This basically means bread! Whether it’s what you use to make a sandwich, dip in soups, or enjoy alongside a meal, bread is contributing to a huge amount of our sodium intake!

Chicken and mixed chicken dinners: Have you ever made chicken at home and added a nice amount of salt? Restaurants and prepackaged chicken meals contain salt as well, between the various sauces, seasonings and the side dishes, these chicken meals contain much more sodium than you could imagine adding at home.

Pizza: What is it about pizza that makes it on this list? The dough! Pizza dough is in essence a yeast bread, and to get that super savory, make you want to come back for more taste, pizza you eat out or do not cook from scratch contains a hefty amount of sodium.

Pasta Dishes: For the same reasons as mixed chicken dinners and pizza, consumers are getting their fare share of sodium in pasta dishes.

Cold cuts: That’s right, deli meats are contributing significantly to our daily sodium intake. If possible, choose the low or no-sodium counterpart to your favorite deli meat- you can add salt at home if you need to, in comparison it will be much less than the full salt version.

What’s the best way to cut down on your sodium intake? Supermarket Guru has some tips! Cook more at home, choose fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables - with no added sodium (check the ingredients). Your taste buds will acclimate soon enough, and you will learn to prefer foods that are less salty. When using canned vegetables or beans - that may contain salt as a preservative - rinse well with water to remove as much salt as possible. Cut back on processed foods; read and compare labels. Consider eating out a treat!