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Sodium

Natalie
Stein
February 19, 2020
Sodium
Lark

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Daily limit for a green badge: 2,300 mg (1,500 mg for Lark Hypertension)

Meal limit for a green badge: 767 mg (500 mg for Lark Hypertension)

Which foods are high in sodium?

Why a Burger Can Do a Body Good

Most dietary sodium comes in the form of salt, and salty foods tend to be highest in sodium. Processed, packaged, and prepared foods, fast foods are often high in sodium. For example, a cup of soup and a 3-ounce portion of ham can each have over 1,000 mg, as can fast food items such as sub sandwiches and burgers.

These are some high-sodium foods.

  • Bread
  • Soup, broth, bouillon, stock
  • Canned tuna, beans, chili, vegetables
  • Soy, oyster, teriyaki sauce
  • Boxed dinners, meal helpers, and sides, such as mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, beef stroganoff
  • Salty snack foods, such as chips, crackers, popcorn, pretzels
  • Salad dressing, salsa
  • Pasta sauce, barbecue sauce

  • Processed meat: ham, pepperoni, hot dogs, sausage, salami, turkey breast
  • Frozen meals
  • Sandwiches, burritos, tacos, burgers
  • French fries
  • Muffins, cake
  • Cottage cheese, cheese
  • Pickles, kim chi
  • Olives
  • Vegetable juice
  • Breakfast cereal

What do people really eat? These are the top sources of sodium in the U.S.

Top Sources of Sodium in American Diets[1]

The CDC reports that these 10 foods provide over 40% of Americans' sodium.

  • Bread, including rolls, bagels, English muffins, pita, buns, breadsticks, pancakes, corn bread, tortillas
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Soups
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Savory snacks, including pretzels, chips, crackers, popcorn, cheese puffs
  • Chicken and chicken dishes, such as chicken parmesan, chicken soups, chicken casseroles, fried chicken, chicken fried rice
  • Cheese
  • Eggs and omelets

The majority of sodium in Americans' diets comes from mixed dishes, or foods that have many components. Examples from the "Top 10" list are pizza, sandwiches, burritos and tacos, chicken dishes, and eggs/omelets. These foods may have multiple components that are high in sodium. For example, high-sodium components in pizza can include bread, pepperoni, sausage, sauce, cheese, and olives.

Table salt is awfully high in sodium, with 2,300 mg in a single teaspoon. Still, it is not among the major contributors to sodium intake. Processed foods are a far greater source.

What About High-Nutrient, High-Sodium Foods?

Canned tuna

Many foods are high in sodium, but they are often sources of other nutrients. For example, olives, cheese, and canned tuna are high in sodium, but nutrient-rich. Olives contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, and canned tuna and salmon have high-quality protein and heart-healthy omega-three fats. 

It is okay to include these foods sometimes, especially when the other foods in your diet are lower in sodium. Many processed foods are better targets for lowering sodium consumption, since they are often low in essential nutrients or high in less-healthy components. 

Tips for Limiting Sodium Consumption

Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich

These tips can help you get more green badges for keeping sodium under your goal.

  • Choose low-sodium, low-salt, or no salt added versions of foods such as canned soups, beans, and vegetables, salad dressings, soy sauce, pretzels, and sauces.
  • Instead of luncheon and processed meats, look for fresh and unprocessed protein sources such as chicken, turkey, peanut butter, fish, and tofu.
  • Use herbs and spices and less salt for flavoring when cooking recipes and seasoning foods and dishes.
  • Read nutrition facts panels on food labels. Some brands of the same food, or some flavors of similar foods, have much less sodium even though they taste alike.
  • Ask for dressings, sauces, and dips on the side, and use less of them.
  • Taste your food instead of automatically adding salt at the table.

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