Sodium in Processed Foods

Most people in the United States eat much higher amounts of sodium than they should.  Eating foods with too much sodium can lead to increased blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease and the risk of stroke.  Salt and sodium are not the same, yet both words are often used in place of each other.  Ninety percent of the sodium consumed is in the form of salt. 

More than 75% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed, pre-packaged, and restaurant foods.  Only a small amount comes from using the salt shaker, either added during home cooking (5%) or at the table (6%).

Where does sodium come from?  The most popular foods that can add high levels of sodium include:

Helpful Tips
Breads and rolls
1 slice of bread can be 80 to 230 milligrams of sodium
Cold cuts and cured meats
1 serving, about 6 thin slices of deli meats can add as much as half of your daily recommended sodium
Limit cheese and add more veggies to your next slice
Sodium in poultry products will vary with the preparation method
Check labels to find lower sodium varieties
Try a half sandwich with a side salad

How much sodium should be consumed?  According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: 
  • Americans aged 2 years and older should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day.
  • People aged 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or who have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, should further reduce their sodium intake to 1500 milligrams per day.

Research has shown that over time, your taste buds can adjust to prefer less salt.  How can you reduce the amount of sodium you consume?
  • Compare nutrition facts labels on similar canned and packaged foods and choose the one with the lowest amount of sodium.
  • Purchase fresh fruits and vegetable or canned products with no added sodium.
  • Avoid or limit your use of canned and pre-packaged meat products.
  • Rinse regular canned foods such as beans to help reduce the amount of salt.
  • Select frozen vegetables without added sauces.
  • When preparing food at home, season foods with fresh herbs and spices in place of salt.
  • Use "low sodium" or "no salt added" ingredients in recipes.
  • Whether eating at home or at a restaurant, select small portions to help limit how much salt you eat.
  • Request restaurant nutrition information to be available to make healthier, lower sodium choices.
For more information on how you can reduce the sodium in your diet, visit:

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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall