8 Surprising Food and Drinks That Have High Salt

Senior man wearing a striped sweater reading the nutrition label on a food package.

February is American Heart Month.

When you typically think of heart health, you probably think of blood pressure and high cholesterol but there’s a sneaky little culprit lurking in your food and drinks that impact your heart in a big way. Salt! Also known as sodium.

While we know that excess salt isn’t good for us, you may think you’re eating low sodium foods and in fact you’re taking in more than you think. It doesn’t just mean putting down the salt shaker.

Understanding Sodium and Heart Health

Sodium plays an important role in regulating bodily functions like nerve transmission and fluid balance. However, excessive sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, with an ideal limit of 1,500 mg for most adults.

Surprising Sources of Salt

1. Bread and Baked Goods: Yes, even that seemingly innocent slice of bread can have a lot of sodium. Many commercially baked bread and rolls contain added salt for flavor and preservation.

2. Canned Soups and Broths: A warm bowl of soup might seem like a healthy choice, but canned soups often contain sky-high sodium levels to enhance taste and extend shelf life. Always check the nutrition label for sodium content and opt for low-sodium or homemade alternatives when possible.

3. Condiments and Sauces: Ketchup, soy sauce, barbecue sauce – these yummy for sure but often are super high in their sodium content. A single tablespoon of soy sauce can contain up to 1,000 mg of sodium! Be mindful of portion sizes and explore low-sodium or homemade options.

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4. Pasta/Tomato Sauce: Pasta night could be giving you way more sodium than you realize. A typical jar of tomato pasta sauce can run high in salt so read your labels. There are alternatives like unsalted jarred or canned tomatoes. Even better? Buy fresh tomatoes and sauté in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and herbs and you’ll have a better tasting sauce without all the extra sodium.

5.  Deli Meats and Cold Cuts: That quick sandwich may be convenient, but it’s also packing a hefty punch of sodium. Deli meats and cold cuts are often cured or preserved with salt, contributing to their high sodium content. Choose fresh, unprocessed meats whenever possible.

6. Cheese: Cheese lovers, beware! Of course cheese is delicious but it can also be a hidden source of sodium. Hard cheeses tend to contain more sodium than softer varieties so consume them in moderation and explore low-sodium alternatives.

7. Sports Drinks and Electrolyte Waters: While these beverages are marketed as hydrating and replenishing, they can also be loaded with sodium. Athletes and individuals engaging in intense physical activity may benefit from electrolyte replenishment, but for the average person water remains the best choice to hydrate.

8. Vegetable Juice: Veggie juices (like V8) seem healthy but can be high in sodium. Some brands have lower sodium versions but look at the label to be informed about what you’re drinking.

Why Are These Foods High in Salt?

To Make it Taste Good: Let’s face it, salt tastes good and Americans in particular are used to high salt in their foods.

Preservation: Sodium acts as a preservative which gives foods and drinks and longer shelf life.

Want more? You may be interested in reading our blog, Demystifying Expiration Dates: Is It Safe to Use Medicine and Food Beyond Their Expiration Date?

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