Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in some foods but is added to many others in the form of sodium chloride. This salt can be added during the preparation or manufacture of food.
Just 1 teaspoon of salt contains around 2,300 mg of sodium – worth a whole day! That makes it really easy to overdo it with this savory ingredient. In fact, 90 percent of people in the US consume too much sodium.
What’s the big deal about showing too much love to salt? Consistent eating of too much sodium (especially through processed foods) has been linked to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
A low-sodium diet may also benefit people who experience:
The average American eats approximately 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Do you want to limit your sodium intake? Here are 15 of the saltyest foods and how to make a switcheroo for each one.
1. Canned soup
Sometimes the convenience of a hot bowl of soup comes out of a can. But these simple pre-made soups are extremely high in sodium.
Canned chicken or turkey noodle soup could have 834 mg of sodium per cup. And if you eat the whole can (which many of us do sometimes) the total is more than double that.
- If you have the time, make a homemade pot of soup with little sodium broth.
- Look for a low-sodium version of your favorite canned soup. For example, a low sodium chicken noodle soup can only reset 429 mg of sodium per cup.
2. Cottage cheese
Salt in cheese stops bacteria growth, keeps moisture in check, and improves taste and texture.
One of the salty cheeses is cottage cheese. A 2 percent product contains 696 mg of sodium per cup.
For your information, opting for a low-fat cottage cheese is getting a product with a higher sodium content (1 percent milk fat cottage cheese contains 918 mg of sodium per cup).
Low sodium cottage cheese is becoming increasingly popular. But be prepared that it probably won’t taste like its sodium-containing counterpart.
3. Salad dressing
The superstar of a salad is usually the dressing. Many salad dressings contain salt, MSG, or other sodium derivatives.
If you’re a ranch dressing lover, every tablespoon you eat contains 135 mg of sodium. Vinegar-based dressings are comparable in terms of sodium content. Italian dressings contain 146 mg per tablespoon.
DIY your salad dressing! Vinegar and oil make a good base. Just add your favorite herbs and spices to enhance the flavor.
4. Beef jerks
This on-the-go snack is filled not only with protein, but also with sodium. The added salt will help preserve and flavor the meat.
If you’re consuming 1 ounce (about 28 grams) of beef jerky, you need about 505 mg of sodium. However, this can vary depending on the brand and taste.
Try other nutrient-dense snacks that don’t require refrigeration, like unsalted mixed nuts, whole-food snack bars, or dried fruits.
5. Delicatessen meat
Whether you are doing a Sammie at home or visiting a local deli, if you eat cold cuts, you are likely eating a lot of sodium. This meat is processed with added sodium to preserve the meat and give it flavor.
Some meats may contain more sodium than others. For example, every 3 slices (27 grams) of hard salami contains 535 mg of sodium. But 28 grams of Deli Roast Beef contains 239 mg of sodium.
More and more companies are releasing versions of deli with reduced sodium content. For example, a low sodium turkey would push the sodium back to 189 mg per 28 grams. If you have a go-to brand, check out their website to see if they publish the nutrition statistics for their products.
When pickling foods (such as cucumbers, green beans or cabbage) are immersed in brine. This helps preserve the food and gives it a slightly sour taste.
One dill pickle spear contains 323 mg of sodium. In moderation, this could be manageable for you. However, if you have a cucumber with your salty french fries and salami sandwich, the sodium levels can add up quickly.
Try the fresh ingredients before they are pickled! If you’re missing that pickled flavor, try pickling fresh cucumbers quickly by soaking them in white vinegar and water for about 2 days.
7. Boxed meals
Who hasn’t turned to Hamburger Helper or Mac and Cheese for a quick dinner? Boxed meals, while convenient and inexpensive, are also high in sodium.
A 1-cup serving of prepared mac and cheese contains 869 mg of sodium. (And who only eats 1 cup of mac and cheese?)
- The sauce or seasoning package typically provides most of the sodium in a box meal. With these packages separated in the box, add less than needed or make your own, low-sodium version.
- Do you have a little more time Try to make one of these quick meals in 10 minutes or less.
8. Frozen meals
When you exit the aisle with the prepackaged meals and head towards the freezer, you may be disappointed. Frozen meals can also contain a medium sodium punch. Pizza is a common frozen meal that is particularly high in sodium.
A 15.1-ounce frozen cheese pizza (452 grams) contains a whopping 2,020 mg of sodium. The addition of hot peppers increases this total to 3,140 mg per 532 grams of pizza.
Look for frozen meals that are high in vegetables and whole grains with minimal sauce. Check out the nutrition facts to compare options while in business.
9. Baked beans
Baked beans are a popular summer side dish, often paired with hamburgers, hot dogs, and other grilled favorites. The bummer is that they are filled with sodium. One cup of canned baked beans (with added pork) contains 1,050 mg of sodium.
Also, unlike regular canned beans, you can’t rinse them to lower sodium levels.
Stand out from other party guests and create your own baked beans. Just make sure to put the salt down and add herbs and spices to the flavor.
The salt is quite noticeable when you eat pretzels – whether you get the twists, sticks, or nuggets, they’re all topped with a hefty dose of coarse salt.
Pretzels can contain 280 mg of sodium per 30-gram serving, depending on the brand.
Although unsalted pretzels exist, they don’t provide much nutritional value. Instead, try a snack of fresh vegetables and hummus (or any other dip – just check the labels and opt for lower sodium options).
11. Canned vegetables
Since canned vegetables don’t go bad as quickly as fresh ones (see you guys, wilted spinach we bought a week ago and never touched), they’re understandably a convenient option.
Like any other canned food, canned vegetables contain a large amount of sodium. One cup of drained mixed vegetables contains 349 mg of sodium.
- Just choose frozen vegetables if you are looking for a long lasting option.
- After you’ve drained canned vegetables, rinse them out to remove some of the sodium that’s sitting on them.
12. Sauces and spices
If you want to keep things sassy, these products are likely pretty salty too. Soy sauce is one of the saltyest of them all. Only 1 tablespoon contains 879 mg of sodium.
Another sauce that is often salty is BBQ. Depending on the brand, a dip tank can contain around 288 mg of sodium.
- Many sauces, including soy sauce, are available in low-sodium varieties.
- You can also make some of your own sauces (and skip the added salt).
13. Hot dogs and sausages
What Goes With Salty Baked Beans? The hot dog. Oh, and his cousin, Bratwurst. These grilled wieners usually contain sodium nitrate, which helps in preservation, but also means they’re quite high in sodium.
Your classic Frankfurt beef can contain around 497 mg of sodium, and a bratwurst can contain 634 mg.
You probably won’t find many low-salt processed meats. Instead, try plant-based dogs, which tend to be lower in sodium. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Double-check the label for the safest exchange.
14. Pork products
Sausage, bacon and ham: all pork products … and all salty as the sea. Many of these meats are cured, which essentially means adding salt to the meat to preserve it and improve the taste.
One sausage patty can contain around 285 mg of sodium, and just one slice of pork bacon contains 210 mg.
Try to get most of your protein from other meats and vegetables that are low in sodium. Lean beef, chicken, lentils, and edamame are all high in protein. Just make sure you look for no-salt options to reduce sodium.
15. Bagels and other breads
This might be the most surprising item on the list. Bread doesn’t usually have a salty taste, but it’s one of the top 10 foods that people usually get a large chunk of sodium on every day.
What does salt do in bread? It helps control yeast fermentation, improves crust color, and adds flavor.
A normal slice of white bread can contain around 134 mg of sodium, depending on the brand. More of a bagel fan? A regular regular bagel will likely have around 443 mg of sodium.
- Although it may take some searching, some bread options are low in sodium. Check to see if any are available at your local store.
- You could always go the homemade route and make your own delicious low-sodium bread.