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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Hidden Salt

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I was reading an article in the January 2009 issue of Consumer Reports about hidden salt in our food. The average American eats about 4,000 mg of sodium each day. The Dietary Guidelines suggest that we have less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. People with high blood pressure should aim for less than 1,500 mg per day. If you start reading labels, you will see how difficult it is to stay below these guidelines.

Salt vs sodium
Salt and sodium are the same thing. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.

Labels correct
Consumer Reports took 37 different foods and analyzed them to see if the amount of sodium in the product matched the sodium listed on the Nutrition Facts panel. Good news: It did in 36/37 cases.

Surprising sodium
  1. Cottage cheese: 360 mg (more than 1 oz of potato chips)
  2. Heart Healthy V-8 Juice: 480 mg (more than a large pickle spear)
  3. Whole Grain White Bagel (Pep Farm): 440 mg (more than 2 egg omelette with 1 oz cheese and 1 tsp butter)
  4. Twizzlers: 4 strands have 115 mg while the black licorice has 200 mg.
  5. Raisin Bran cereal: Varies by brand from 230 mg - 350 mg per cup
  6. Prego Heart Smart Italian Sauce: 430 mg per half cup
  7. Aunt Jamima Pancake mix: 200 mg in each pancake as prepared
  8. McDonald's Premium Caesar salad with grilled chicken: 890 mg

Why so much?
Sodium tastes good! Food manufacturers and restaurants know that people perceive food as tasting better when it has a little bit (or a lot bit) of sodium added. They are out to sell products, and taste wins over nutrition in the minds of many consumers.

Cut back on sodium
  • We know that sodium is directly related to blood pressure. The American Medical Association says that reducing dietary sodium in half would save 150,000 lives every year.
  • Read labels to see how much sodium is in the foods you are eating.
  • Challenge yourself to write down the sodium content of everything you eat for one day.
  • Even if you never pick up the salt shaker, you can end up with a lot of sodium in your diet just from eating processed and prepared foods.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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