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Five High-Sodium Foods That May Surprise You

After noshing on an overly salty meal, you’ve probably experienced that cotton-mouth feeling, which has you reaching for a tall glass of water. Besides making you thirsty, eating foods high in sodium can increase your risk for some not-so-good health problems. Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is made up of about 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

The maximum recommended intake for sodium is 2,300 mg per day for most people. Some population groups, like African Americans and people over 51, are recommended to eat fewer than 1,500 mg per day. Compare those numbers to the average daily intake for Americans over the age of two: 3,436 mg. Some foods high in sodium are pretty easy to spot, like potato chips and canned soup. Other foods are not so easy to spot. Here are five foods high in sodium that may be making you more thirsty than you realize.

Food High in Sodium #1: Sliced Bread

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Store-bought breads have a huge range of sodium content; some are low sodium while others pack a ton. When choosing a bread to buy, keep an eye out for the serving size. Although you may typically eat two slices at a time, bread manufacturers often list the serving size as one slice.

Consider Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane. It contains 350 mg of sodium per slice. A sandwich made with two slices would pack 700 mg of sodium in just the bread. That’s about 30% of the daily recommended sodium intake.

Food High in Sodium #2: Canned Beans

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Beans are a delicious and versatile plant protein. Using canned beans makes it much easier and more convenient to enjoy a meat-less meal. In most canned items, sodium is added to prevent the growth of bacterial and increase the shelf life.

Luckily, there’s several easy ways to avoid the salt. Low-sodium or no-salt added canned beans are almost always sold alongside the regular versions. If you’re stuck with the salted kind, give the beans a good rinse and a good portion of the salt will wash off.

Food High in Sodium #3: Hummus

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Hummus is not only delicious, but it’s also full of healthy fats and fiber. The standard serving size for hummus is two tablespoons. Given the tastiness of hummus, it might be hard to limit yourself to just two tablespoons at a time.

Consider Athenos regular hummus. It has 160 mg sodium per serving, which might seem pretty reasonable — if you can limit yourself to just one serving. An average 7 oz container packs 1,120 mg sodium total — more than half of the daily recommended intake. Check out our Zipongo taste-test approved hummus brands and some shopping tips.

Food High in Sodium #4: Salad Dressing

Like most packaged and shelf-stable foods, salad dressing can be a sodium culprit. The thing to keep in mind with salad dressings is that “low-fat” and “light” varieties usually have more sodium than the regular versions. This is to compensate for the lower fat content and keep the flavor tasting good. We also have some Zipongo-approved salad dressing brands that have good taste and reasonable sodium content.

Food High in Sodium #5: Cottage Cheese

While most cheeses are known for being salty, cottage cheese packs a slightly greater salt-punch. An average half-cup serving has around 459 mg sodium, which is about 19% of the daily recommended intake.

Navigating the Label

Here are two tips for choosing lower-sodium foods:

  • Follow the 5/20 rule: Check the label and choose a food that has the sodium content closest to 5% of the daily value (DV). Avoid foods that are closer to 20% or more of the DV of sodium.
  • Aim for a 1:1 ratio of calories to sodium. If a food has 100 calories per serving, it should have around 100 mg or less of sodium. If it has any more than that, there’s a great chance it’s a food high in sodium.

Bobby is the community and social media manager at Zipongo. He has a degree in nutrition and dietetics and previously worked as a health educator.

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