When you think of sodium, you probably think of table salt. But even if you don’t use the salt shaker much these days, you may be consuming too much sodium. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day. If you have certain medical conditions, you should consume even less. But most people consume about 3,500mg or more per day.
The biggest benefit to cutting the amount of sodium in your diet is that it can help you lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
If you’re trying to consume less sodium, avoiding the salt shaker is one proactive measure you can take. But it’s not enough. More than three-quarters of the sodium in your diet likely comes from processed foods and it’s hard to tell what foods contain a lot of sodium. Many foods with high sodium contents don’t even taste salty.
Here are 15 common places you’ll find hidden sodium:
- Cookies, cakes and muffins
- Snack foods
- Processed meats
- Canned vegetables
- Pickled foods
- Flavored rice mixes
- Frozen meals
The only way to know how much sodium you’re actually consuming is to check labels carefully. Different brands of the same foods may contain very different levels of sodium. Don’t just go by how salty something tastes. Foods that don’t taste salty or that even taste sweet may contain lots of sodium. While other foods that taste salty may not contain as much sodium as you think. For example, a cup of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran cereal contains 350mg of sodium while a single-serving bag of Lay’s potato chips only contains 170mg.
Another way to control the amount of sodium you consume is to watch serving sizes. You may look at a label and think the sodium content doesn’t seem too high. But if your portion size is actually 3-4 times the listed serving size, those numbers can add up quickly.
Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet requires more than just parting ways with the salt shaker on your dinner table. Becoming an educated label reader can help you find the hidden sources of sodium in your diet. Choosing more fresh whole foods and less processed food will also help you lower the amount of sodium you consume.