When it comes to checking food labels, we often look at the amount nutrients, fat, or even sugar that a food contains, but we don't often pay attention to salt content. Even if we aren't eating pizza or french fries every day, there a number of foods that are surprisingly high in sodium, and knowing what these foods are can assist us in making healthier choices — no matter what we eat on a daily basis. Although sodium is a necessary part of our diet, too much of the mineral can increase your risk of kidney stones, weaken your bones, and have a negative effect on your heart, according to Medical Daily.
"The unfortunate truth is that the vast majority of food in supermarkets and restaurants have salt added to them and many have an alarming high amount," says mindful eating coach and nutritionist Dina Garcia, RD, LDN over email. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a whopping 90 percent of Americans are consuming more than the daily recommended amount of sodium. The recommended amount is 2,300 mg daily, which is equivalent to just one teaspoon.
Even if you think you're eating a healthy diet, you want to be wary about using too much salt, and you want to pay attention to where it's coming from in your diet. If you're not sure what foods might be the salt-filled culprits, consider these 11 foods that are surprisingly high in sodium.
1. Chicken Breasts
"Most shocking even to some is boneless skinless chicken breasts," says Garcia. "They are often injected with a brine solution to 'enhance' flavor and tenderness." According to Cooking Light, about one-third of fresh chicken in supermarkets contains added salt, and just one chicken breast could eat up 20 percent of your sodium limit.
Most bread is pretty bland on its own, so it's not uncommon for salt to be added for extra flavor. According to the American Heart Association, one piece of bread can have 230 mg of sodium, and if you're making sandwiches or eating a roll before dinner, that amount can quickly add up.
3. Dairy Products
"Yogurt and milk aren't as big of a deal because they have more potassium than sodium," says Garcia. "But cheese is very high in sodium with a relatively low potassium content. Potassium helps to relax blood vessels and increases the excretion of excess sodium."
In addition to added sugars, many brands of cereal include added salt as well. It's important to check the nutrient label on your box of choice, as some cereals contain 170 to 280 mg of sodium per serving — and most people tend to eat more than one serving at a time.
5. Salad Dressing
"The best way to cut down on sodium in salad dressing is to make your own," says Garcia. "Many bottled salad dressings pack in 300 mg or more per two tbsp serving. Putting your dressing on the side can help you to use less total dressing and help you cut down on sodium intake."
6. Tomato Sauce
Many tomato products like tomato sauce, tomato soup, and tomato juice have added sodium, but tomatoes by themselves are naturally low in the mineral. One cup of canned tomato sauce supplies almost an entire day's recommended intake, according to Livestrong, so try to make your or own or look for varieties without added salt.
7. Instant Oatmeal
"It's obvious that many instant oatmeals are full of added sugar, but many are surprised to find they also have added salt," says Garcia. "Regular oatmeal has 0 mg of sodium, while a packet of...instant oatmeal has 200mg per packet. Making your own oatmeal doesn't take much effort, and it's cheaper."
Condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, and barbecue sauce are generally high in sodium, as salt is added to them to enhance their flavor and preserve their shelf life. Soy sauce has 900 mg in just a one tablespoon serving, while ketchup contains 167 mg and barbecue sauce 265, according to SF Gate.
You might think eating soup is the healthy choice, but be wary of what kind you are choosing. Canned soup can be especially high in sodium, One cup of chicken noodle soup can have as much as 744 milligrams of sodium, according to WebMD. Look for brands that say "low-sodium" or use this handy list to help you pick a low sodium option.
10. Canned Beans
Beans are a great source of plant-based proteins, but buying the canned variety can quickly use up your daily limit of sodium. One serving of canned beans can contain 500 mg of sodium, which is about one-fifth of your daily limit, according to SF Gate.
11. Nut Butter
Nuts such as peanuts and almonds alone are great for your health, but many store-bought varieties of these nut butters add ingredients such as sugar, salt, and hydrogenated oils to compensate for flavor. Two tablespoons of peanut butter can contain up to 125 mg of sodium, according to Cooking Light, so look for brands that just stick to the nut, or consider making your own at home.
If you suspect you're eating too much sodium, try your best to buy whole, unprocessed foods, which can help limit your intake.
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