Sodium Hides in Strange Places

Friday, January 9th, 2009
Sodium in Food

Salt Shaker by L. Marie

In a study by Consumer Reports, they analyzed 37 foods and four salt substitutes to see how the sodium amounts claimed on the labels compared to the actual amounts.

The good news?

Accurate labeling has improved over the years and while there’s some misleading numbers, generally speaking, it’s pretty good.

The bad news?

There’s high levels of sodium in some foods you may not think to check.

Let’s get the guidelines straight to level set your expectations.  There’s no reason to just list off foods if you don’t have a frame of reference right?

Dietary guidelines recommend that healthy adults get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day.   The average American ingests 2,900 to 4,300 mg.

Here’s a foods where high sodium lurks.  Take into careful consideration the portion sizes and you can see how it’s very easy to go over your daily allowances in foods that are not so obvious.

Some Examples of Sodium in Places You Might Not Expect:

  • Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Cereals: 350 mg per cup
  • Prego Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce: 430 mg per half cup
  • McDonald’s Premium Caesar Salad with grilled chicken without dressing: 890 mg
  • Ruffles Original Potato Chips has 10 g of fat and 160 mg of sodium, while the baked version has 7 fewer g of fat but 40 mg more sodium

Confusing Terminology:

If you don’t see the word sodium or sodium chloride on the labels, which are terms most people seem to know as the common word for salt, you still might be getting plenty of sodium if you don’t know other names for it.  Some other names are: disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, sodium caseinate, sodium benzoate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrite, and other combinations

Consumer Reports offers some advice as to what consumers can do:

  1. Read labels.
  2. Look for no-salt-added condiments.
  3. Be a smart chef and taste before adding salt. Use herbs and spices, salt-free seasoning blends, citrus juice or zest, and flavored vinegars instead of salt.
  4. Eat one serving.
  5. Avoid sodium heavyweights. Or limit them when possible. Among the highest-sodium products: soy sauce (1,160 mg/tbsp), chicken bouillon (1,100 mg/packet), frozen dinners (930 mg/serving in Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat & Sauce; some have more), and Spam (790 mg/2 oz).
  6. Eat at home. You can easily consume a day’s worth of sodium in a single restaurant dish.
  7. Check your meds. Some drugs contain sodium.
  8. Retrain your taste buds. Research shows that after three months, most people no longer miss salt.

Consumer Reports Study

Can You Tell Which Food has More Sodium? (visual game)

It’s always good to read labels.  Especially if you suffer from hypertension or have a special need to limit your intakes.  Things like chips and salsa are obvious but heart healthy pasta sauce or some candy may not be.

Here’s to your health,

Marc David
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
Author of the The NoBull Bodybuilding Program