Sodium: Is Your Food Full of It?

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD


Consuming too much sodium is not good for the 68 million Americans with high blood pressure. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that a high sodium diet increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke even if you have normal blood pressure.

Based on the most recent evidence, your sodium goal is from about 2,300 to 2,400 mg a day. However, most Americans consume between 3,500 to 5,000 mg per day, which is well above the recommended amount.

Eating mostly unprocessed foods including fruits, veggies, milk, bread, and chicken or other animal protein offers about 1,000 mg of sodium. If you add just a ½ teaspoon of salt, that adds another 1,000 mg. However, for most Americans, 80 percent of our sodium comes from processed, fast, and restaurant food. For example, one biscuit has about 600 mg, one ounce of American cheese has 270 mg, one tablespoon of soy sauce has 1,000 mg, and one hot dog about 510 mg.

orange chickenIf you eat out, the sodium amounts are even higher. Panda Express Two Entrée meal with Orange Chicken has a whopping 2,300 mg of sodium, In and Out Burgers Double Double has 1,440 mg, and even the seemingly healthy McDonalds Grilled Chicken Sandwich has 1,030.

So what can you do to eat less sodium? Here are a few tips.

  • Pay attention to what you are eating. Ask about the sodium amounts in fast and restaurant foods and check the Nutrition Facts on packages.
  • Eat out only 1 to 2 days per week.
  • Eat fewer canned, packaged, and processed foods.
  • Cut out the salt you add while cooking or at the table. Use herbs, spices, vinegar (I especially like balsamic), garlic, onions, wine, or spice mixes such as Mrs. Dash or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute instead.
  • Most importantly, eat more fresh, healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and lentils.

The great news is that your taste buds will get used to a lower sodium amount in just 3 to 4 weeks. Even a small decrease the amount of sodium you consume will have a big effect on your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.