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20 Sneaky Sources of Sodium


You’re probably aware that using your saltshaker adds sodium to your diet, but did you know that the number one source of sodium in the U.S. diet is bread?

Most Americans get around 3,400 mg of sodium per day--significantly more than the daily limit recommended by health organizations. Healthy individuals are urged to eat no more than 2,300 mg, the amount in 1 teaspoon of salt. People with heart disease, African-Americans and those over 50, are urged to limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg or just 2/3 of a teaspoon per day. (The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg for all Americans -- healthy or not, regardless of age.)

Why Should You Care About Too Much Sodium?

Too much sodium simply is not good for us. Sodium raises blood pressure, risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. The good news is that by just making small changes to reduce your sodium intake you could have significant results. Research shows that if Americans reduced sodium by just 400 mg (the sodium in about half a cup of chicken noodle soup) per day, 20,000 heart attacks, 13,000 strokes and 17,000 deaths would be prevented.

Blood pressure rises naturally with age, and more than 90 percent of U.S. adults 55 and older develop high-blood pressure at some point. High-blood pressure is also present among more children in the U.S. than ever before. A study reported in Hypertension found a 27 percent increase in high-blood pressure among children aged 8 to 17 in the past 13 years. Nearly 20 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls in a national survey have elevated blood pressure. The authors concluded that the rapid rise in high-blood pressure among children is related to their weights and consumption of sodium-rich foods.

Some 75 percent of sodium comes in the diet comes from the processed foods and beverages you buy at supermarkets or enjoy at restaurants. A small amount --up to 10 percent-- is found naturally in foods. And table salt only contributes 5-10 percent of total intake.

So, just like you read the nutrition label of the foods you buy for calories, fats, carbs and sugar, it's also essential that you keep a close eye on the sodium content.

Readers - Are you surprised by any of these sneaky sources of sodium? What is the biggest source of sodium in your diet? Leave us a comment below.

– Julie

Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. Her articles appear in national magazines and newspapers including CookingLight, Prevention, Men's Health, The New York Times and USA Today. She is a frequent on-air guest on national news programs including CNN, The Today Show, ABC World News Tonight and Fox News. She co-founded Appetite for Health, where she writes daily about food and nutrition issues and her favorite healthy food finds. She is also the co-author of,The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits and Slim Solutions (Penguin, 2013).  

Julie spends much of her free time trail running, CrossFitting, swimming or cooking healthy meals in Marin County, CA. 

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