There’s good news and bad news when it comes to sodium. The good news? Sodium is a mineral you need to live. It keeps fluids and electrolytes balanced and regulates your blood pressure. It also gives food a salty flavor.
The bad news? You’re probably eating *wayyy* more sodium than your body needs. And that can be bad for your health.
But we’re not here to rub salt in that wound. We are here to help you identify some of the saltiest items that may be in your diet and to recommend some smart swaps.
Sodium is a mineral that’s found naturally in some foods but is added to many others in the form of sodium chloride. This salt can be added during food prep or manufacturing.
Just 1 teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium — a whole day’s worth! That makes it really easy to overdo it on this savory ingredient. In fact, 90 percent of people in the United States consume too much sodium.
What’s the big deal about showing salt too much love? Consistently eating too much sodium (especially through processed foods) has been linked to conditions like high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Eating a low sodium diet can also benefit folks who experience:
- kidney disease
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
The average American eats about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Looking to limit your sodium intake? Here are 15 of the saltiest foods and how to make a switcheroo for each.
1. Canned soup
Sometimes the convenience of a hot bowl of soup comes from a can. But those easy premade soups are extremely high in sodium.
2. Cottage cheese
Salt in cheese helps stop bacteria growth, keep moisture in check, and enhance taste and texture.
One of the saltiest cheeses is cottage cheese. A 2 percent product contains 696 mg of sodium per cup.
FYI: If you go for a lower-fat cottage cheese, you’ll end up with a product that’s higher in sodium (1 percent milkfat cottage cheese contains 918 mg of sodium per cup).
3. Salad dressing
The superstar of a salad tends to be the dressing. Many salad dressings contain added salt, MSG, or other sodium derivatives.
If you’re a ranch dressing lover, every tablespoon you eat contains 135 mg of sodium. Vinegar-based dressings are comparable when it comes to sodium content, with Italian dressing containing 146 mg per tablespoon.
4. Beef jerky
This on-the-go snack isn’t just packed with protein — it’s also packed with sodium. The added salt helps preserve and flavor the meat.
5. Deli meat
Whether you make a sammie at home or hit up a local deli, if you’re eating cold cut deli meats, you’re prob eating a lot of sodium. These meats are processed with added sodium to preserve the meat and give it flavor.
Pickling involves immersing food (like cucumbers, green beans, or cabbage) in a saltwater brine. This helps preserve the food and gives it a somewhat sour flavor.
One dill pickle spear contains 323 mg of sodium. In moderation, that might be manageable for you. But if you’re snacking on a pickle along with your salty chips and salami sandwich, the sodium content can add up quickly.
7. Boxed meals
A 1-cup serving of prepared boxed mac and cheese contains 869 mg of sodium. (And who eats just 1 cup of mac and cheese?)
8. Frozen meals
If you’re leaving the boxed meal aisle and heading toward the freezer section, you might be disappointed. Frozen meals can also pack a mean sodium punch. Pizza is a common frozen meal that’s particularly high in sodium.
9. Baked beans
Baked beans are a popular summer side dish often paired up with hamburgers, hot dogs, and other grilled faves. The bummer is that they’re packed with sodium. One cup of canned baked beans (with added pork) contains 1,050 mg of sodium.
Unlike with regular canned beans, you can’t rinse them to reduce that sodium level, either.
The salt is pretty noticeable when you’re eating pretzels — whether you get the twists, rods, or nuggets, they’re all topped with a hefty dose of coarse salt.
Depending on the brand, pretzel rods can contain 280 mg of sodium per 30-gram serving.
11. Canned vegetables
Since canned vegetables don’t go bad as quickly as fresh ones (we see you, wilted spinach we bought a week ago and never touched), they’re an understandably convenient option.
Much like every other canned food, canned veggies contain a hefty amount of sodium. One cup of drained canned mixed vegetables has 349 mg of sodium.
12. Sauces and condiments
Another commonly salty sauce is BBQ. Depending on the brand, one dipping container could contain around 288 mg of sodium.
13. Hot dogs and bratwurst
What tends to go with salty baked beans? The hot dog. Oh, and its cousin, bratwurst. These grilled wieners typically contain sodium nitrate, which helps preserve them but also means they have quite a bit of sodium.
14. Pork products
Sausage, bacon, and ham: all pork products… and all salty as the sea. Many of these meats are cured, which essentially means salt is added to the meat to preserve it and boost flavor.
15. Bagels and other breads
What’s salt doing in bread? It helps control yeast fermentation, improves crust color, and adds flavor.
Your body doesn’t love it when you eat too much salt. Consistently overdoing it on salt could increase your risk of life threatening health probs, especially if you have certain preexisting medical conditions.
Aim to stay below the recommended daily value of 2,300 mg of sodium by limiting high sodium foods (like deli meat and packaged meals) and making lower-sodium swaps.