Where Is Salt Hiding in Your Diet?

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As with many topics in the world of nutrition, there has been a long and heated debate over one ingredient that seems to be in just about everything: Salt. New York City has seen a resurgence of this debate with a new rule that is attempting to force restaurants to put warnings on menu items that are particularly high in salt. The National Restaurant Association has taken an issue with this rule stating that the city’s Board of Health does not have the authority to enact the new rule, but what is it about salt that is creating such a stir in the first place?

Salt is a necessary nutrient in our diets, because it helps us absorb water. Plus, salt is simply delicious, which is why it is a fixture on dinner tables that adds new life to bland dishes. So what exactly is the problem? Too much salt can lead to a wealth of problems – including inflammation – which may significantly raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and liver damage. While there have been advocates to end the war on salt stating that the exact health effects of eating too much salt are not so clear, it is important to recognize that—like anything else—too much can be harmful. As a result, it’s important to think about some ways you can reduce your salt intake to improve your health to at least some degree. When it comes to cutting salt, putting down the salt shaker is not enough, because the most significant sources of salt are foods that you might not think twice about before eating. Here’s a closer look at where salt is hiding out in your diet:

Processed Foods

Deli meats, snack foods, cheese, and pickled foods can be the enemy of a sodium-conscious eater, because the labels for each of these foods can shock you with the amount of salt they contain. For many of these foods, however, there are low-sodium alternatives available, so be sure to check the labels so you know exactly what you’re getting before you make it part of your diet.

Prepackaged Foods

If you tend to rely on shortcuts in your kitchen with canned goods, frozen foods, and premade salad dressings, it is likely that you are getting too much salt in your diet. Salt is a key ingredient in these foods, because it not only improves flavor, but it also acts as a preservative. There are many prepackaged foods that you might not even think contain salt, including bread and pasta. One slice of white bread may have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium, which is nearly half of what you need in a day to satisfy your nutritional need for salt—about 500 mg. The daily recommended value of sodium is a bit higher at 1,500 mg, though most people exceed this by nearly 2,000 mg daily.

Energy Drinks and Soda

One of the most surprising sources of salt you might encounter is soda, which contains up to 25 mg of sodium per 20 ounce serving. While this may not seem like much, it can add up quickly if you drink two or three sodas per day. If you think diet soda is a better alternative, think again; diet soda actually has even more sodium with about 35 mg per serving! Energy drinks are the worst offenders, as one Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Drink has about 160 mg, or 7% of your daily recommended value of sodium.