Salt sprinkled on food or used in home cooking isn’t to blame for our high sodium intake.
“Most sodium consumed in the United States comes from salts added to processed and prepared foods, and foods at restaurants,” says Dr. Brian A. Ference, a cardiologist and genetic scientist who is a member of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Section Leadership Council.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines cite the “mixed foods” category, which includes pizza, processed and packaged foods, and prepared meals, as making up our largest intake of sodium. The “snack foods and sweets” category, such as potato chips and cookies, though often high in sodium, surprisingly accounts for a much smaller portion of our daily sodium intake.
The biggest sodium offenders in processed foods include canned produce, tomato sauces, canned soups, packaged grain dishes, processed meats and frozen entrees. Even healthy products, such as canned black beans, can contain high amounts of sodium.
“There are many foods that are high in sodium that may surprise people,” says Ference. “One slice of bread can contain anywhere from 80 to 230 mg of sodium; a single serving of some breakfast cereal can contain 150 to 300 mg of sodium.”
If you buy processed foods regularly, read the label and choose “low-sodium” or “no salt added” varieties.