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How to Avoid Sodium

Trying to reduce the sodium in your diet? It can be a smart choice for your blood pressure, brain, and overall health. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as many people think, with countless hidden sources of sodium popping up in the American diet.


What is Sodium?

First off, sodium isn’t a bad guy. Sodium is a nutrientTwo categories: micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and m... More that we desperately need in order to survive; however, at most the average person needs about 1,500mg. Sodium is lost by sweat, so athletes need a little more.

6 high-sodium foods that are common in our diets
The major sodium culprits

The issue is that sodium just tastes good. Sodium makes up about 40% of table salt, which contributes to 90% of an average American’s daily sodium intake. 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt has over 1,700mg of sodium. The average American eats 3,400mg of sodium a day.

See also: Get to Know Your Nutrients


Sources of Sodium

There are many sources of sodium sneaking into our diets. The easiest way to identify them is to think of things that would have salt added to them.

See also: How to Understand and Apply the Nutrition Facts


The American Heart Association provides 6 high sodium foods. If you are already limiting those foods and would like to decrease sodium intake further, here are more things to look out for:


  • Dressings / dips

Salad dressings vary widely in sodium levels. However, what they all have in common is that they want to make your plain old vegetables taste better, so they add tons of salt. A spoonful of Olive Garden’s salad dressing has over 500mg.

Similarly, salsa, bean, and cheese dips can have a good bit of salt.


  • Sports drinks / sodas

As mentioned earlier, unless you are a true endurance athlete on an intense training regimen, you can swap the Gatorade for a bottle of water. As for soda, there are numerous reasons to cut back your consumption other than sodium, sugars and artificial ingredients being the main culprit.


  • Condiments

Ketchup, mustard, pickles, mayo, and hot sauce, to name a few. Like salad dressing, there is copious amounts of salt used in their preparation.


  • Cheese and butter

When looking for cheeses to buy, check the labels. Just one wedge of Feta has over 400mg of sodium. If you look hard enough, there are some very low sodium options, like Mascarpone. For butter, obviously salted had more sodium than unsalted.

See also: What’s on the Nutrition Label?


  • Snack foods

Nuts, pretzels, chips, popcorn, and crackers. All these are very highly salted foods we munch on without much thought. Look for lightly salted or unsalted substitutes.


How do I Know How Much There Is?

You can find sodium listed about halfway down the nutrition facts label.

The nutrition label on a bag of pretzels
There are 190mg of sodium per serving in this case


To Summarize

There is no one rule that encompasses all foods when looking for low sodium options. Sodium levels depend completely on the manufacturer and type of product. Although, avoiding processed foods is a pretty safe bet. Salt free doesn’t mean bland. There are hundred of amazing spices and herbs out there to make your food taste even better.


Keep in mind that manufacturers can be tricky with their reduced sodium substitutes. They usually reduce the sodium by reducing salt. Salt is what makes junk food taste so good. To keep demand high, it is not uncommon for the lost flavor to be made up in added fat or sweeteners.


Lastly, don’t spend your life running away from savory, salty foods. Have a little salt once in a while, it won’t kill you.


Helpful documents:

Why Avoid Sodium?


Thanks for reading!




American Heart Association- Life is Why. Healthy Living: Healthy Eating, Accessed 28 October 2016.

J. Skerrett, Patrick. Harvard Health Publications – Harvard Medical School: Trusted Advice for a Healthier Life. Trade Sports Drinks for Water, 30 July 2012. Accessed 28 October 2016.


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