Sodium can be sneaky.
You stop salting while cooking, and at the table, and think you've got it covered. And you smile knowingly while declaring you don't eat fast food because it is so high in sodium. And the question is if this is enough food change to keep your sodium intake under the recommended 2300 mg of sodium a day. Or if you are African American, age 51 or older or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic disease, that recommendation is now 1500 mg a day.
Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reveal that more than 40 percent of our daily sodium intake comes from only 10 types of food. The top 10 sodium suppliers are breads and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, soup, burritos, savory snacks like pretzels and crackers, chicken that has been injected with a saline solution and cheese. Although bread is not super high in sodium, a slice can be between 80-230 mg, four slices a day can add up to one-third of your recommended sodium intake.
One teaspoon of salt contains 2325 mg of sodium. A recipe with six portions that calls for one teaspoon of salt would only have 388 mg of sodium per serving. That is not an issue for a main dish portion. Seventy seven percent of sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods. Only 5 percent comes from home cooking.
Decreasing sodium intake to government recommendations reduces risk for high blood pressure.
The best shopping advice is to compare the nutrition facts label between similar products and buy the lower sodium item. Canned tomatoes and beans, two great convenience foods, come in no-salt added versions. Canned soups can be insanely high in salt, with some having 1000 mg of sodium per serving. Until I made my first pot of soup, I never realized how easy and delicious it was. My favorite soup cookbook is “Clean Soup” by Rebecca Katz (Ten Speed Press $22.95).
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.