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March 1, 2012 at 12:53 PMComments: 4 Faves: 0

Hold the Salt! The Top Ten Sources of Sodium in Your Diet, and Number One is . . . Bread!?

By Brad Ter Haar More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the A Longer Life Blog Series

When I’m eating dinner at home or going out to eat with friends, I almost never touch the salt shaker, and it’s not just because I’m more of a pepper guy, it’s because I know how much sodium is already found in the foods I eat. What I didn’t realize, however, was just where most of my salt intake is actually coming from. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a report that pinpoints the top ten sources of sodium, found in everyday foods we consume on a regular basis. Surprisingly, potato chips and other salty snacks ranked below bread and rolls, the largest source of salt in our diets, according to the CDC report.

The following top ten list of foods account for nearly half of our daily salt intake:

  1. Bread and rolls (responsible for 7.4% of daily sodium intake)
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats (5.1%)
  3. Pizza (4.9%)
  4. Poultry (4.5%)
  5. Soups (4.3%)
  6. Sandwiches and burgers (4%)
  7. Cheese (3.8%)
  8. Pasta and spaghetti dishes (3.3%)
  9. Meat dishes such as meatloaf (3.2%)
  10. Processed snack foods, including pretzels, chips, and popcorn (3.1%)

If there’s a sliver-lining, I suppose it may be that we as Americans are consuming more bread and trying to eat more whole grains – and, as a result, absorbing more sodium through these foods, rather than from Fritos and cheese puffs. Remember too, that when salt-per-serving is examined, bread is not number one, it’s only high on the list above, because we tend to eat more servings of bread and rolls, than we do snack foods, so don’t stop eating bread (especially those tasty loaves of whole grain bread)

How Much Salt is Too Much?

Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans are eating too much salt, which increases the risk of developing hypertension, a strong risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Vascular diseases like stroke, lead to the death of 800,000 people in the U.S. on an annual basis. This statistic alarmed me, and left me wondering just how much salt is too much in a day.


I discovered that the recommended daily limit set by the government is 2,300 mg, but that the average American’s sodium intake is a whopping 3,266 mg per day, greatly exceeding the suggested daily limit.

About 50% of the U.S. population -- people over 51, African Americans, and those with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or diabetes, are recommended to take-in even less sodium, with a suggested daily limit of 1,500 mg.

How to Reduce Your Salt Intake

Here are several simple steps you can take to curb your sodium consumption, and subsequently decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke, by preventing the development of hypertension:

  • Read nutrition labels: Yes, they may be boring and have super small print, but reading nutritional labels is essential to stopping the salt menace! Asking for nutritional information when you are eating away from home, and checking the level of sodium in foods at the grocery store will have you more aware of how much sodium you consume, and allow you to make healthy choices that lower your intake of salt.
  • Avoid salty sauces: many of the sauces served on pasta dishes or meatloaf are packed with sodium, so order entrees without the sauce, or, if you are making food at home, use salt-free ingredients as much as possible.
  • Eat reduced-sodium soups: Soup is a great lunch idea, and often is quite healthful, but be careful in the soups you select, since most have nearly a quarter of more of the recommended daily salt intake. Often times, even “Lite” soups are loaded with sodium, so read the nutritional labels and choose carefully.
  • Eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables: Generally speaking, canned vegetables and fruits tend to be high in sodium, compared to fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables, which nearly always have no or little salt. And, of course, fresh tastes much better than the canned stuff!

Photo Credit:

bootload and Traverse Gourmet


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  • Brad, this study brought great confusion to so many people. The point of the study is not to tell you that bread is high in sodium (because it is not), but rather to show where (on average) most of us get sodium in our diets. Because Americans love their bread (and donuts, pastries, bagels, muffins, etc.) and it makes up a large part of our diet, when it is all added up, it does provide a large portion of the sodium in our diets.

    Though if you were to compare bread to other foods in our diet (fast food, canned goods, chips, processed foods), it would be far lower in sodium.

    Just wanted to clarify for anyone reading this article. Cheers to good health (which yes, includes whole grain bread) :)

  • Thanks for the insight Jessica :)
    You're very right, the report released by the CDC is misleading at first glance.

    As I mentioned in the article, most bread does not contain high levels of
    sodium per serving, so it may actually be encouraging that Americans are getting more salt
    from bread, rather than from processed foods/junk foods, since it's an indication people are eating bread more
    than many salty snacks, processed foods, ect.

  • Very interesting article. I definitely agree that many of the foods that contain the most sodium would be in the top ten. The one that really shocked me was bread and rolls having the most. I never knew that. Thanks for the eye opener!

  • Loved the information here Brad, I just bought a multi-grain bread from Arnie's the other day and it was very delicious. I've eaten between one and two slices a day and I didn't check the label yet but I bet is has less salt than the multi-grain chips I bought. I will check and get back to you on the subject.

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