It’s More Than the Salt Shaker

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 89% of US adults consume more than the recommended 2300 milligrams of sodium/day in the years 2009 – 2012. To top that off, a report from the CDC found that we are not only eating too much, we are almost eating double of what is recommended! Men between the ages of 19 – 51 consumed an average of 4,400 mg/day and women were consuming an average of 3100 mg/day. 

We do need to eat salt to survive. It is necessary for nerve function and to maintain proper fluid balance. However, the amount of salt we actually need is very little. The recommendation is 2300mg sodium/day, which is equal to 1 teaspoon. 

When you consume more sodium than you need, the kidneys flush out the excess via urine. If you are unable to excrete extra sodium, it accumulates in the fluid between the lungs. Water attracts sodium, so you also have more water between the lungs, which means more volume. This high volume creates more work for the heart and more pressure on the blood vessels. Over time, this extra pressure leads to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and heart failure. 

When I speak to patients about cutting their sodium intake, the first thing out of their mouth is: “I never use salt when cooking or add it to my food”. While that is great, the more problematic issue is the salt that is already in foods. It far surpasses the amount of salt that you add to your own meals when cooking. 

Check out this Fat Free Ranch Dressing. 

For 2 tablespoons of dressing, you consume 310mg of sodium, or 13% of your daily value. The % Daily Value is based of 2300mg sodium per day. Often, we will use much more than 2 tablespoons of salad dressing, and especially since it is fat free, we think of it as a ‘free food,’ so we just dump a whole lot on. Then add croutons and cheese… your salad is going to be pretty high in sodium.  

Sodium also does not give us calories, so for those who mainly are concerned with calories may not pay attention or notice the large quantity of sodium. 

Here are some examples of sodium content in popular foods. 

Snyders Mini pretzels
250mg salt per serving – 10% of our daily value 

Healthy Choice Vegetable Beef 
420mg sodium per 1 cup – 18% Daily Value 
(There are two servings per container with this soup, which often we eat.) 

Pepperidge Farm 100% whole wheat Bread 
150mg sodium per 1 slice 

Small Cheese Dominos Pizza 
2330mg sodium for an entire cheese pizza. Take a small pizza and cut that 6 ways and its 383mg/slice 

Other common foods that have a lot of sodium are frozen pre-cooked meals, such as tv dinners, deli meat, condiments, canned vegetables, sauces, cheese, salted crackers, etc. 

Many of our everyday foods easily provide up to 20% of our Daily Value. Make sure to always read the food label when selecting food products and don’t think just because you do not add salt to your meals, that you are automatically eating a low sodium diet.