Shake Your Sodium Habit
How to know more (because it’s hidden where you least expect) and consume less (because you likely need to cut back).
Where Sodium Is Hiding
It’s not the saltshaker you need to worry about most. “It’s the sodium in certain processed foods and beverages that really
contributes to hypertension,” says Chobanian. About 10 percent of the sodium that the average person consumes comes from salt
added during cooking and at the table. Another 10 percent or so is found naturally in foods. And about 75 percent is from
processed foods and restaurant meals, says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and
a registered dietitian in Roseville, California. Here are common places you’ll find sodium.
At restaurants: When dining out, you cede control. There’s no way to know what ingredients the chef started with or how much salt she added.
At drive-throughs: Sodium, whether in table salt or some other ingredient, is also used to preserve foods (sodium propionate or sodium aluminum sulfate is in fast-food flour wraps, for example) and as a flavor enhancer to mask bitterness and make meats juicier. Most frozen fries contain about 250 milligrams of sodium per serving, but a serving of homemade oven fries has only 15 milligrams, if unsalted. (For a flavor boost, sprinkle on some dried oregano.)
At the coffee shop: It lurks in drinks and foods that don’t necessarily taste salty. That large caramel-laced frozen coffee drink with whipped cream can pack around 250 milligrams of sodium. “Baked goods, including doughnuts, muffins, cookies, and bread, tend to be high in sodium, too,” says Gazzaniga-Moloo.
At the grocery store: A good rule of thumb is, if it comes in a box (pancake mixes, instant cereals), a bottle (salad dressings), or a can, check the label. Even some canned vegetables can be salt bombs (a half cup of canned diced tomatoes has more than 250 milligrams of sodium).