By Jennifer Acosta Scott
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
If you’ve been in a grocery store lately, you’ve probably noticed more and more low-sodium foods on shelves, from cheese to crackers. There’s good reason for the change: Consuming salty foods can increase your risk for serious health conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. The obvious fix is to cut some of the salt from your diet, but sodium is sneaky — it can lurk in many seemingly healthy foods. Here are some of the worst offenders.
Beware of Certain Breads
You probably don’t think of bread as salty food, but some types can contain fairly high amounts of sodium. A six-and-a-half-inch pita, for example, contains more than 300 milligrams of salt. That doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up when you consider that most adults are advised to keep their salt intake below 2,000 mg of sodium per day, says Kelly O’Connor, RD, a nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. The next time you’re craving a sandwich, reach for low-sodium rye bread — the reduced-calorie version contains only 93 mg per slice, significantly less than the 170 mg in the average slice of white bread. Another good choice is whole-grain bread, which has about 127 mg per slice.
Forget Frozen Meals
Packaged low-calorie frozen meals may seem like the easy way to control portions and watch your weight, but most of them contain way too much salt. “Although many brands now offer low-sodium alternatives, the meals still contain significant amounts,” O’Connor says. “Some of them contain more than 500 mg per meal, which is one-third of your recommended daily intake if you are following a low-sodium diet.” A leftover meal made from last night’s healthier homemade dinner can serve as a low-sodium, quick-lunch alternative to lower your salt intake, O’Connor adds.
Not to mention that a frozen dinner has NO nutritional value!
Ditch the Salad Dressing
You may feel virtuous opting for a salad over a hamburger, but pay attention to the condiments that you add to your greens. One tablespoon of commercially prepared French dressing, for example, has 214 mg of sodium. “This is not a red-flag amount of sodium per serving, but think of how many people pour the salad dressing on their salads directly from the bottle, serving themselves several tablespoons and maybe 800 to 1,000 mg of sodium,” O’Connor says. The next time you reach for a salad, try using oil and vinegar, which won’t add to your salt intake.
The best vinegar in my opinion is Apple Cider Vinegar because of its amazing health benefits and of course Cold Pressed Olive Oil says Glenda De Luca, The Lifestyle Changer. http://www.thelifestylechanger.com
You probably don’t think of breakfast cereal as a salty food, but many of the “healthier” cereals on the market, like corn flakes and toasted-oat cereals, have almost 300 mg of sodium per cup. Again, the problem isn’t the sodium per serving, but the small amount that counts as a serving size. “A typical cereal bowl can hold one and a half to two cups of cereal, if not more,” O’Connor says. To control your salt intake at breakfast time, watch your portion size, and try shredded-wheat-type cereals, which are low-sodium foods. A one-cup serving of frosted miniature-wheat cereal, for example, has only 3 mg of salt.
Be Cautious About Canned Beans or anything canned for that matter
Some people opt for beans as a way to get protein while controlling their fat and cholesterol intakes, but the canned versions often have too much salt. One cup of plain baked beans has a whopping 1,008 mg of sodium, which is half of an adult’s recommended daily salt intake. “A roasted chicken breast [without the skin] would be an all-around better choice, with less than 100 mg of sodium and minimal fat and cholesterol content,” O’Connor says. If you’re a vegetarian, try cooking dried beans — one cup of boiled navy beans has only 2 mg of sodium.
Junk the Jarred Spaghetti Sauce
Be prudent the next time you serve pasta: On average, one cup of ready-to-serve marinara or spaghetti sauce weighs in at over 1,000 mg of sodium. If you still want the convenience of jarred sauce, look for lower-sodium versions, some of which contain just 100 mg of salt per serving. Better yet, curb your salt intake by making your own sauce with fresh tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers; these vegetables have very low amounts of sodium, and the finished sauce can easily be frozen for convenience.
Drop the Diet Cola
While diet colas don’t have the sugars and calories of regular cola, they actually have more sodium — 28 mg for a 12-ounce can compared to 15 mg for regular. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but again, O’Connor says, the key is frequency of consumption — several cans of diet cola over the course of a day can add up to too much salt. The next time you’re feeling thirsty, skip the soda in favor of decaf herbal tea or fruit juice, both of which are very low in sodium. “But of course, the best choice would be water,” O’Connor says. The average cup of municipal tap water comes in at about 5 mg of sodium.
The Lifestyle Changer says Diet drinks use artificial sweeteners that are detrimental to your health!
Can the Canned Soup
Those cans of minestrone and tomato soup may make for a comforting meal, but they’re veritable salt-fests. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup contains 1,106 milligrams of sodium. If you don’t have time to make soup from scratch, limit your salt intake by choosing canned soups labeled “healthy” or “low-sodium.” While not free of salt, they usually contain much less than regular versions. (Check the nutrition labels to be sure.) Or try the ready-made soup selections in your grocery store’s deli department, which tend to be lower in sodium than shelf-stable products.