Consumer Reports: Dangerous Sodium Levels in Common Foods
The dangers of excess sodium (table salt) are becoming more and more apparent every day. Recently, the recommended daily intake was decreased from 2,500mg per day to 1,500mg per day. Exceeding the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) can lead to a plethora of health conditions, affecting everything from the heart to the kidney. But did you know that you're probably consuming at least twice the recommended amount daily? Most people do. An exhaustive study recently performed by Consumer Reports magazine found excessive and even dangerous amounts of sodium in common unsalted foods. Most of them were in the places you'd least expect.
Shocking Levels of Sodium Found in Your Daily Diet
Several specific areas were most plagued by excess sodium. "Our analysis found that lower-fat products might be higher in sodium," says Jamie Hirsh, Consumer Reports associate health editor. "That's in part because when fat is taken out of full-fat foods, sodium is sometimes used to compensate for flavor." But it's not just low fat foods that cause problems. Also, restaurant food and breakfast food were notorious. Here are a few of the findings:
- A popular whole grain bagel had 440mg of salt, nearly one third of the recommended daily intake.
- A half-cup of Prego's "Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce" contained 430mg of sodium, which is just shy of the amount allowed in foods labeled as "healthy".
- A Premium Chicken Caesar Salad (with no dressing) from McDonalds contained 890mg of sodium, which is over twice the amount found in a large order of fries (350mg).
- Raisin-Bran cereals had 230mg-350mg
- Half a cup of a low fat cottage cheese brand had 360mg of sodium, double the amount you'll find in a 1 ounce serving of potato chips.
- A best-selling pancake mix contains 200mg per pancake.
But that's not even the worst of it - the study found that eating out can easily put you over the recommended sodium amount in one sitting. "Restaurant foods are a huge source of sodium," Jamie Hirsh says. "The amount of salt in some of these foods would just blow your mind. I saw a single entree offered by a national chain restaurant that had over 5,000 milligrams of sodium. That doesn't mean you can't get low salt meals at restaurants - but you have to work at it." While only proves what we've all known all along - that the standard American does more damage than good - it also provides a reminder and warning. We need to be careful what we eat, and we need to manage our diets so that we can live long, healthy, and enjoyable lives.
A Low Sodium Diet
Americans generally consume somewhere around ten times the amount of sodium their bodies require. Cutting down can save you some agony down the road, and is just another step in living a healthy and fit life. But when you want to cut down, keeping an eye out for salty products can sometimes be difficult. Salt doesn't just come in the form of sodium chloride (table salt). When checking labels, keep in mind that sodium can also be found in food additives like baking powder, brine, or other ingredients that include the word "sodium" (ex:disodium guanylate). You can also try to restrict your diet to a few low sodium classics, such as:
- Fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and fish
- Eggs and egg substitutes
- Milk, yogurt, and ice cream
- Ricotta cheese and mozarrella
- Corn and flour tortillas
With a little effort, avoiding sodium really isn't that hard. Once you're off it, it's hard to go back. Most who have lowered the sodium intake claim that foods which tasted fine beforehand, now taste too salty. By reducing your sodium intake, you're taking the next step to a natural, healthy lifestyle!