Saturday, February 25, 2012

Salt hides everywhere

When I talk to patients about their "sodium" intake, the routine assumption is that I am referring to table salt. Almost every patient says, "I never add salt to my food" and assumes that this is an adequate strategy to reduce sodium intake. The problem is that table salt, or sodium chloride, is but one of numerous foods that add sodium to your diet. Look at the ingredient list and nutritional information for macaroni and cheese. 540 mg of sodium, or 23% of your recommended daily intake, comes in a serving that is 1/6th of a box of macaroni. In the ingredients, we see both sodium phospate and sodium tripolyphosphate as additional sources of sodium. This amount of sodium is a common finding in grocery items that are boxed and processed.

Other hidden sources of sodium? Bread is a big one, and the focus of the news article that prompted this post. the CDC reported data from a 2007-2008 survey of diets and found that nearly half (44%) of the daily sodium intake comes from just ten sources of sodium.

  1. Bread, 7.4%
  2. Cold cuts, 5.1%
  3. Pizza, 4.9%
  4. Poultry, 4.5%
  5. Soup, 4.3%
  6. Cheeseburgers and sandwiches, 4.0%
  7. Cheese, 3.8%
  8. Pasta, 3.3%
  9. Mixed meat dishes (meatloaf), 3.2%
  10. Savory snacks (chips and pretzels), 3.1%
So, potato chips made the list, but just barely, and they were outclassed by lots of other foods, few of which you might think have lots of sodium.

For one other illustration, NPR posted a calculation of the sodium in a simple turkey sandwich, up to 1500 milligrams! Going low sodium on everything cut that nearly in half to about 800. 

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