Most Americans consume too much salt in their diets and don’t even know it. According to the dietary guidelines 2015-2020 the average intake of sodium for Americans older than 1 years old is 3440 mg/day. While our bodies do need some salt in our daily diets, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg/day, with an ideal limit of 1500 mg/d for most adults. To put that into perspective, there are 2300 mg of salt in just 1 teaspoon!
According to the American Heart Association, most of the salt Americans eat is not from adding salt to their foods at the dinner table, but instead from processed and/or restaurant foods. Salt is often used in processed foods to preserve them, and used in restaurant foods as an inexpensive way to add flavor. While there are many hidden sources of salt in the American diet, below are a few.
Some hidden sources of salt
Whole wheat breads and wraps- Most people think of whole wheat breads and wraps as healthy, and might not think to look at the sodium content per slice. While there are a lot of brands of breads that don’t have high sodium levels, there are breads and wraps with over 400 mg/slice or serving.
Many brands are available without high sodium contents, so try to look for breads with ~160 mg sodium or less per slice.
Processed meats: cold cuts, sausage, bacon and hot dogs- According to the American Heart Association a 2 ounce serving of deli meat can contribute half of your daily recommended sodium. Always read nutrition facts labels, and ask questions about nutrition facts labels at deli counters to avoid this from happening.
Ketchup and tomato sauce- There are 154 mg of sodium in 1 tablespoon of ketchup. While these may not seem like a lot, remember that portions count too! For example, if you use 2 tablespoons of ketchup, 154 mg quickly becomes 308 mg. Tomato sauce is also a sneaky source of salt, and some even have 450-550 mg/sodium per serving.
Salad dressings- People often don’t pay attention to the serving sizes of salad dressings. People assume that since they are opting for a salad, they are eating healthy. Some people assume that opting for a light salad dressing means they don’t have to worry about serving size, calories or fat. However, even light salad dressings often have high sodium levels and these numbers add up even more once you stop paying attention to the suggested servings. If you don’t want to give up using your favorite dressing, and you are not interested in trying your own, why not try mixing balsamic vinegar in with your usual dressing to help you use less of it.
Pizza- Bread, sauce and cheese all contain salt. Add these together, and pizza quickly becomes a high sodium dish. Many frozen pizzas contain even more sodium due to the added preservatives. If you are looking for a lower sodium pizza option, why not try making your own at home?
Peanut butter- Did you know that the only ingredient needed to make peanut butter is peanuts? However, many manufacturers add a lot of extra salt for flavor. Look for peanuts as the only ingredient when buying peanut butter to avoid falling into this salt trap.
Ways to limit salt
Use the percent daily values on the nutrition facts label to quickly see if something is high or low in sodium and to compare products. If the percent daily value is lower than 5% then it is low in sodium. If it is greater than 20 percent it is high in sodium.
Pay attention to portions. While it is ok to eat pickles, capers and olives, I wouldn’t recommend eating the whole jar at a time.
Cook at home and season your food with herbs and spices, lemon juice or vinegar instead of salt and salty sauces.
Rinse canned foods before eating them.
Choose unsalted nuts and nut butters instead of salted.
Choose more fresh foods and less processed foods. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, fish and poultry, and dried beans.
As a population, we eat too much salt. However, this does not mean everyone should eliminate salt completely from their diets. Sodium is an essential nutrient that our bodies need. What most people should do is pay attention to hidden sources of salt, and use the above tips to limit your intake.
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.
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