8 Foods High in Sodium

8 Foods High in Sodium

Sodium is an essential mineral that keeps your muscles and nerves strong and maintains the fluid balance in your body. It also adds flavor and acts as a preservative in many popular foods.

Nutrition guidelines in the United States recommend that most adults limit their daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg). However, most Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium daily or about 50% more sodium than recommended.

Consuming too much sodium can increase your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, and kidney stones. A lower-sodium diet can prevent long-term health conditions and improve overall health. Eating less of the foods in your diet that are high in sodium can help you control your sodium intake.

Bread is a staple in many meals and a great source of carbohydrates, but it can also contribute substantially to Americans’ high sodium intake. While you may not think of bread as salty, high amounts of sodium are added to improve the taste and texture. The specific sodium content varies based on the brand and the type of bread.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one slice of commercially prepared white bread contains 130 mg of sodium, or 5% of the Daily Value (DV). One slice of wheat bread has 144 mg of sodium or 6% of the DV. If you eat a lot of bread, it may be worth comparing food labels of various breads to opt for one lower in sodium.

Tortillas made from scratch may not be high in sodium, but frozen or fast-food options can be. For example, a fast-food bean and cheese burrito contains 1,040 mg of sodium (45% of the DV), and a fast-food beef and cheese taco contains 571 mg of sodium.

Sodium is often used as a preservative, so pre-packaged or frozen meals tend to be higher in sodium than homemade ones. If you want to monitor your sodium intake, try preparing burritos or tacos at home. You can also rinse canned beans to help reduce sodium content even more. Instead of salt, opt to flavor beans or meat with lime, onion, and bell peppers.

Cheese adds a delicious savory flavor to meals and is a good source of complete protein. However, sliced and shredded cheeses also have added preservatives that can raise the sodium content. One slice of cheddar cheese has 180 mg of sodium, and one-quarter cup of crumbled feta cheese has nearly 430 mg.

Researchers are looking into producing more low-sodium cheese options with the same taste. 

Depending on the brand of cold cuts, they can have more sodium than bread. One 28-gram slice of deli turkey contains 251 mg of sodium. A slice of deli beef contains 239 mg per slice. One slice of each type of deli meat contains about 10–12% of the DV of sodium.

For a healthier alternative, try purchasing low-sodium or no-salt-added deli meat. Foods labeled as low sodium contain 140 mg of sodium or less per serving. You can also mix up your lunch with lower-sodium protein sources like roasted chicken or fish, and eggs.

According to research, pizza is the largest contributor to sodium intake in the U.S., accounting for over 5% of the country’s collective sodium intake.

While sodium content varies depending on what’s on your pizza and how fresh the dough is, on average, one slice of a 14-inch cheese pizza with a regular crust contains about 640 mg sodium (28% of the DV).

If you love pizza and enjoy eating it often, making it at home can be fun and easy. Compare pizza crusts to find one with less sodium, and use a tomato sauce with reduced sodium. You can also add toppings like fresh veggies to add more fiber.

Poultry is one of the biggest contributors to Americans’ sodium intake. Much chicken in the U.S. is injected with a saline solution to keep it juicy. Saline adds varying amounts of sodium to the chicken. Check the label before you buy chicken.

Prepackaged, frozen, or pre-seasoned poultry has more sodium than fresh chicken. For example, one BBQ rotisserie chicken breast contains 1,260 mg of sodium.

Savory snacks like popcorn, chips, and crackers can be tasty but contain high levels of sodium. For example, a 22-piece serving of potato chips contains about 148 mg of sodium (6% of the DV), and a cup of cheese crackers contains 603 mg (26% of the DV of sodium).

To reduce your overall sodium consumption, try replacing savory processed snacks with lower-sodium options like fresh fruit, yogurt, or veggies with hummus.

Soup may be a go-to comfort food, particularly if you live in a cold climate, yet it often contains large quantities of sodium. One 10.5-ounce can of minestrone contains 1,540 mg of sodium (67% of the DV).

If canned soup is one of your favorite quick meals, you can switch to low-sodium soup options. Also, consider switching to low-sodium broths when cooking other recipes.

Most Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium a day—much more than the recommended amount. Consuming too much sodium increases your risk for kidney disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions. The daily sodium recommendations are based on the amount of sodium you can safely eat without increasing your risk of chronic disease.

Sodium recommendations vary by age:

  • 6–11 months: 370 mg
  • 12–23 months: 1,200 mg
  • 2–3 years: 1,200 mg
  • 4–8 years: 1,500 mg
  • 9–13 years: 1,800 mg
  • 14 and older: 2,300 mg

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults consume closer to 1,500 mg daily for ideal heart health.

Excess sodium can result in both short- and long-term health conditions. In the short term, you may notice puffiness, bloating, or weight gain from excess water retention associated with a high sodium intake. You may also have more frequent headaches.

Over time, consuming too much sodium can increase your risk of health conditions like kidney disease, osteoporosis (decreased bone density), and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Eating foods high in sodium from time to time likely won’t be detrimental to your health, but it’s important to ensure you also have a good selection of low-sodium food options. Reducing sodium intake can be difficult, especially if you depend on pre-packaged foods.

Here are little steps you can take to reduce your sodium intake, even while continuing to purchase pre-packaged foods:

  • Select foods that are labeled as low sodium or reduced sodium
  • Rinse beans and canned vegetables before use
  • Make rice in a rice cooker instead of buying pre-seasoned rice
  • Purchase unseasoned frozen veggies and add flavor with olive oil, herbs, and spices
  • Keep low-sodium snacks like chopped fruit, unsalted nuts, and yogurt on hand
  • Opt for homemade salad dressing rather than store-bought
  • Put fresh veggies and low-sodium meats and cheese in sandwiches
  • Add flavor to meat with sodium-free seasoning blends

Generally, preparing your own meals from as close to scratch as possible is the best way to lower your sodium intake. Using garlic, peppers, and herbs are a few great ways to season homemade meals.

Here is a sample day of low-sodium meals:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt parfait with fresh berries, unsalted walnuts, and chia seeds
  • Lunch: Pasta salad with fresh chopped veggies like bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Add rinsed canned chickpeas for protein and top with a homemade oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Snack: Unsalted mixed nuts with grapes
  • Dinner: Roasted salmon with broccoli and potatoes. Use lemon, olive oil, garlic, and pepper to flavor the salmon, and season the broccoli and potatoes with olive oil, herbs, and a pinch of salt if you like.

Sodium is a nutrient commonly found in ultra-processed foods in the U.S. Although you need sodium in your diet, consuming too much of it can put you at risk for health conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis.

You can make small changes to lower your daily sodium intake without dramatically changing your diet. When possible, make home-cooked meals. You can try fruit, salt-free frozen or fresh veggies, and unsalted nuts as low-sodium snack options.

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