You've probably heard reports that many Americans consume too much sodium for good health. Although reducing the amount of table salt in your meals is one remedy, it can be easy to forget that sodium is a natural part of many foods and also added to processed products, sometimes in high amounts.
The Best Amount
Consuming too much sodium raises your risk of several potentially serious chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke and heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, a high-sodium diet may contribute to development of high blood pressure in 1 in 3 Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you limit your daily sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams, or about 1 teaspoon of table salt, and to 1,500 milligrams or less if you're over the age of 50, are African American or already have kidney disease or high blood pressure.
Fresh meat provides sodium that's a natural part of its content. For example, 3 ounces of cooked lean beef contains about 55 milligrams of sodium, while fresh cooked pork and veal provide about 60 and 70 milligrams, respectively. Organ meats are also a source of sodium -- beef heart and tongue provide 29 and 17 milligrams of sodium per ounce, respectively, while calf's liver contains about 30 milligrams per ounce. Poultry also contains a modest amount of sodium, with about 70 milligrams in one-half chicken breast and 50 milligrams in one drumstick, both roasted with skin. Turkey is significantly higher in sodium, with almost 200 milligrams in one roasted leg or half a breast, both cooked with skin, although this is mainly because portions of turkey are larger than for chicken.
Meat products meant to be eaten cold can be quite high in sodium. For example, beef bologna can contain as much as 220 milligrams of sodium per slice, while Braunschweiger liverwurst can have more than 300 milligrams in each slice. Other deli meats that can be high-sodium foods include Lebanon bologna, with about 225 milligrams per slice, and some types of salami that can have more than 200 milligrams per slice. When choosing deli meats, look for products labeled as reduced or low sodium. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, these products must have a sodium level that's reduced by 25 percent from the normal amount to be labeled "reduced sodium" and 35 milligrams or less per serving for a "low-sodium" label.
Other types of processed meats such as salt-cured types can be especially high in sodium. For example, a 3-ounce serving of ham might have as much as 1,100 milligrams of sodium, while two slices of cooked bacon provide almost 300 milligrams. Hot dogs can also contain lots of sodium, with some types of chicken hot dogs containing about 600 milligrams each. Canned meats can also be high-sodium foods. For example, 3 ounces of canned corned beef can have almost 900 milligrams, while a 5-ounce can of chicken might have 700 milligrams or more of sodium. When purchasing these types of processed meats, check labels for sodium content in each serving and opt whenever possible for reduced- or low-sodium versions.
- American Heart Association: Sodium and Salt
- Health.gov: 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Texas A&M Agrilife Extension: The Sodium Content of Food
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Americans Consume Too Much Sodium (Salt)
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: How Much Sodium Is in One Teaspoon of Salt?