The average American’s salt intake is about 3,400 milligrams a day, more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams! It’s important to note that little of that excess salt actually comes from the salt shaker. In fact, more than 75% of people’s salt consumption comes from eating processed or restaurant foods.
Last week we talked about the dangers of ‘free’ sugars … the sugar added to food before it gets to you, the consumer and the long-term consequences it has had in the form of skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity. This week we’ll look at another dangerous addition to our diets that we may not even be aware of…salt. Excess salt intake contributes to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It even affects your appearance by causing puffiness, swelling, and bags under the eyes.
Your first reaction may be to cut out the potato chips and hide the salt shaker, which are excellent ideas. However, the fact is that Americans consume most of their excessive salt through everyday food items that loaded with excess sodium. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association just released a new report in which they listed the “salty six” common foods that are the top sources for sodium in today’s diets, and a couple of the items are real shockers!
- Bread. One piece of bread can have as much as 230 mg of sodium or 15% of the recommended daily amount! In other words, a piece of toast in the morning, a sandwich at lunch and a roll with dinner and you’ve eaten 60% of your daily allowance! And that’s without peanut butter or cheese!
- Cold cuts and cured meats. It’s no surprise that deli or pre-packaged turkey can have as much as 1,050 mg of sodium. Salt reduces spoilage and is used generously … too generously!
- Pizza. Between the bread, the cheese, the spicy sauce and the pepperoni, one slice of pizza can have up to 760 mg of salt or half of your daily allotment!
- Poultry. Packaged raw chicken often has a salt solution added to help maintain freshness. Prepared chicken meals add up even more! Three ounces of frozen and breaded chicken nuggets contains about 600 mg of sodium while a frozen chicken pot pie has 857 mg of sodium, making it an unhealthy chicken entree when you follow a low-sodium diet. On it’s own, chicken is a healthy low-salt menu item … roast or broil for an easy, healthy alternative.
- Soup. One cup of canned chicken soup can have up to 940 mg of sodium, so be sure to check the label for low-salt varieties!
- Condiments. Ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce can add up to more than 1,500 mg of additional sodium in a sandwich that is already overloaded with salt thanks to packaged bread! Again, check your labels. Try replacing the usual condiments on that sandwich with a balsamic vinaigrette!
If you currently have hypertension look into the DASH diet to institute some real change. In the meantime, add plenty of fresh fruit and whole grains to your nutritional regimen … it could save your life!