FYI Daily

Top Hidden Sources of Salt

Last updated: Feb 07, 2012


You may be careful not to overdo the salt shaker -- but do you know the total amount of sodium you consume in a day? Nine in 10 Americans over age 2 consume too much dietary sodium, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs reports.

Americans eat, on average, about 3,300 mg of sodium a day. But experts say that about 6 in 10 adults should eat less than half that amount. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that all those over 51, all African-Americans, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day. For everyone else, less than 2,300 mg of sodium -- still less than the average consumed -- is recommended.

You might be surprised where all the salt is hiding. More than 40 percent of sodium is found in 10 foods, says the CDC:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Cold cuts and cured meats (e.g. deli or packaged ham or turkey)
  • Pizza
  • Fresh and processed poultry
  • Soups
  • Sandwiches (including cheeseburgers)
  • Cheese
  • Pasta dishes
  • Meat- mixed dishes (e.g. meat loaf with tomato sauce)
  • Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn.

Note that most salt in the diet doesn't come from the salt shaker. Among the top hidden sources of salt in the diet: Cottage cheese, raw chicken and pork (which is often injected with a sodium solution), condiments, cheese, some breakfast cereals, and most restaurant foods.

The best way to limit salt intake in the diet is to read labels and do the math, although this isn't the easiest way, and, of course, impossible in most restaurants. Cooking at home with whole, fresh ingredients is another path to controlling sodium in your diet.

What's the big deal about salt? Consuming too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

Image by Flickr user 21TonGiant under a Creative Commons Attribution licensing agreement.