Nutrition

30 Foods High in Sodium and What to Eat Instead

Table salt, known chemically as sodium chloride, is made up of 40% sodium.

It’s estimated that at least half of people with hypertension have blood pressure that is affected by sodium consumption — meaning they’re salt sensitive. In addition, your risk of salt sensitivity increases with age (1, 2).

The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for sodium is 2,300 mg — or about 1 teaspoon of salt (3).

Still, average daily sodium intake in the US is 3,400 mg — far higher than the recommended upper limit. This mainly comes from packaged and restaurant foods, rather than from overusing your salt shaker (4).

Sodium is added to foods for flavor and as part of some food preservatives and additives (5).

Here are 30 foods that tend to be high in sodium — and what to eat instead.

1. Shrimp
Packaged, plain, frozen shrimp commonly contains added salt for flavor, as well as sodium-rich preservatives. For example, sodium tripolyphosphate is commonly added to help minimize moisture loss during thawing (6).

A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of non-breaded frozen shrimp may contain as much as 800 mg of sodium, 35% of the RDI. Breaded, fried shrimp is similarly salty (7, 8).

In contrast, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of fresh-caught shrimp without salt and additives has just 101 mg of sodium, or 4% of the RDI (7).

Opt for fresh-caught if you can or check a health food store for frozen shrimp without additives.

2. Soup
Canned, packaged and restaurant-prepared soups often pack a lot of sodium, though you can find reduced-sodium options for some canned varieties.

The sodium primarily comes from salt, though some soups also contain sodium-rich flavor additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).

On average, canned soup has 700 mg of sodium, or 30% of the RDI, per 1-cup (245-gram) serving (9).

3. Ham
Ham is high in sodium because salt is used to cure and flavor the meat. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of roasted ham averages 1,117 mg of sodium, or 48% of the RDI (10).

There’s no sign of food companies cutting back on how heavily they salt this popular meat. In a recent national sampling of US foods, researchers found that ham was 14% higher in sodium than in the previous analysis (10).

Consider using ham only as an occasional condiment in small amounts rather than eating a full serving.

4. Instant Pudding
Pudding doesn’t taste salty, but there’s plenty of sodium hiding in instant pudding mix.

This sodium is from salt and sodium-containing additives — disodium phosphate and tetrasodium pyrophosphate — used to help thicken instant pudding.

A 25-gram portion of instant vanilla pudding mix — used to make a 1/2-cup serving — has 350 mg of sodium, or 15% of the RDI. In contrast, the same amount of regular vanilla pudding mix contains only 135 mg of sodium, or 6% of the RDI (11, 12).

5. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and an excellent source of protein, but it’s also relatively high in salt. A 1/2-cup (113-gram) serving of cottage cheese averages 350 mg of sodium, or 15% of the RDI (13).

The salt in cottage cheese not only enhances flavor but also contributes to texture and functions as a preservative. Therefore, you generally won’t find low-sodium versions (14).

However, one study found that rinsing cottage cheese under running water for three minutes, then draining it, reduced sodium content by 63% (15).

6. Vegetable Juice
Drinking vegetable juice is a simple way to get your veggies, but if you don’t read nutrition labels, you could be drinking a lot of sodium, too.

An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of vegetable juice may have 405 mg of sodium, or 17% of the RDI (10).

Fortunately, some brands offer low-sodium versions — which means they can have no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving according to FDA rules (16).

7. Salad Dressing
Some of the sodium in salad dressing comes from salt. Additionally, some brands add sodium-containing flavor additives, such as MSG and its cousins, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.

In a review of major brand-name foods sold in US stores, salad dressing averaged 304 mg of sodium per 2-tablespoon (28-gram) serving, or 13% of the RDI (9).

However, sodium ranged from 10–620 mg per serving across the samples of salad dressing, so if you shop carefully, you could find one low in sodium (9).

An even better option is to make your own — try using extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

8. Pizza
Pizza and other multi-ingredient dishes account for almost half of the sodium Americans consume.

Many of the ingredients — such as cheese, sauce, dough and processed meat — contain significant amounts of sodium, which add up quickly when they’re combined (4).

A large, 140-gram slice of store-bought, frozen pizza averages 765 mg of sodium, or 33% of the RDI. A restaurant-prepared slice of the same size packs even more — averaging 957 mg of sodium, or 41% of the RDI (9, 10).

If you eat more than one slice, the sodium quickly adds up. Instead, limit yourself to one slice and complete your meal with lower-sodium foods, such as a leafy green salad with low-sodium dressing.

9. Sandwiches
Sandwiches are another one of the multi-ingredient dishes that account for almost half of the sodium Americans consume. The bread, processed meat, cheese and condiments often used to make sandwiches all contribute a significant amount of sodium (4).

For example, a six-inch submarine sandwich made with cold cuts averages 1,127 mg of sodium, or 49% of the RDI (7).

You can significantly cut back on sodium, by choosing unprocessed sandwich toppings, such as grilled chicken breast with sliced avocado and tomato.

10. Broths and Stocks
Packaged broths and stocks — used as the base for soups and stews or to flavor meat and vegetable dishes — are notoriously high in salt.

For example, 8 ounces (240 ml) of beef broth average 782 mg of sodium, or 34% of the RDI. Chicken and vegetable broths are similarly high in sodium (17, 18, 19).

Fortunately, you can easily find reduced-sodium broths and stocks, which have at least 25% less sodium per serving than the regular versions (20).Table salt, known chemically as sodium chloride, is made up of 40% sodium.

It’s estimated that at least half of people with hypertension have blood pressure that is affected by sodium consumption — meaning they’re salt sensitive. In addition, your risk of salt sensitivity increases with age (1, 2).

The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for sodium is 2,300 mg — or about 1 teaspoon of salt (3).

Still, average daily sodium intake in the US is 3,400 mg — far higher than the recommended upper limit. This mainly comes from packaged and restaurant foods, rather than from overusing your salt shaker (4).

Sodium is added to foods for flavor and as part of some food preservatives and additives (5).

Here are 30 foods that tend to be high in sodium — and what to eat instead.

1. Shrimp
Packaged, plain, frozen shrimp commonly contains added salt for flavor, as well as sodium-rich preservatives. For example, sodium tripolyphosphate is commonly added to help minimize moisture loss during thawing (6).

A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of non-breaded frozen shrimp may contain as much as 800 mg of sodium, 35% of the RDI. Breaded, fried shrimp is similarly salty (7, 8).

In contrast, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of fresh-caught shrimp without salt and additives has just 101 mg of sodium, or 4% of the RDI (7).

Opt for fresh-caught if you can or check a health food store for frozen shrimp without additives.

2. Soup
Canned, packaged and restaurant-prepared soups often pack a lot of sodium, though you can find reduced-sodium options for some canned varieties.

The sodium primarily comes from salt, though some soups also contain sodium-rich flavor additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).

On average, canned soup has 700 mg of sodium, or 30% of the RDI, per 1-cup (245-gram) serving (9).

3. Ham
Ham is high in sodium because salt is used to cure and flavor the meat. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of roasted ham averages 1,117 mg of sodium, or 48% of the RDI (10).

There’s no sign of food companies cutting back on how heavily they salt this popular meat. In a recent national sampling of US foods, researchers found that ham was 14% higher in sodium than in the previous analysis (10).

Consider using ham only as an occasional condiment in small amounts rather than eating a full serving.

4. Instant Pudding
Pudding doesn’t taste salty, but there’s plenty of sodium hiding in instant pudding mix.

This sodium is from salt and sodium-containing additives — disodium phosphate and tetrasodium pyrophosphate — used to help thicken instant pudding.

A 25-gram portion of instant vanilla pudding mix — used to make a 1/2-cup serving — has 350 mg of sodium, or 15% of the RDI. In contrast, the same amount of regular vanilla pudding mix contains only 135 mg of sodium, or 6% of the RDI (11, 12).

5. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and an excellent source of protein, but it’s also relatively high in salt. A 1/2-cup (113-gram) serving of cottage cheese averages 350 mg of sodium, or 15% of the RDI (13).

The salt in cottage cheese not only enhances flavor but also contributes to texture and functions as a preservative. Therefore, you generally won’t find low-sodium versions (14).

However, one study found that rinsing cottage cheese under running water for three minutes, then draining it, reduced sodium content by 63% (15).

6. Vegetable Juice
Drinking vegetable juice is a simple way to get your veggies, but if you don’t read nutrition labels, you could be drinking a lot of sodium, too.

An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of vegetable juice may have 405 mg of sodium, or 17% of the RDI (10).

Fortunately, some brands offer low-sodium versions — which means they can have no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving according to FDA rules (16).

7. Salad Dressing
Some of the sodium in salad dressing comes from salt. Additionally, some brands add sodium-containing flavor additives, such as MSG and its cousins, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.

In a review of major brand-name foods sold in US stores, salad dressing averaged 304 mg of sodium per 2-tablespoon (28-gram) serving, or 13% of the RDI (9).

However, sodium ranged from 10–620 mg per serving across the samples of salad dressing, so if you shop carefully, you could find one low in sodium (9).

An even better option is to make your own — try using extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

8. Pizza
Pizza and other multi-ingredient dishes account for almost half of the sodium Americans consume.

Many of the ingredients — such as cheese, sauce, dough and processed meat — contain significant amounts of sodium, which add up quickly when they’re combined (4).

A large, 140-gram slice of store-bought, frozen pizza averages 765 mg of sodium, or 33% of the RDI. A restaurant-prepared slice of the same size packs even more — averaging 957 mg of sodium, or 41% of the RDI (9, 10).

If you eat more than one slice, the sodium quickly adds up. Instead, limit yourself to one slice and complete your meal with lower-sodium foods, such as a leafy green salad with low-sodium dressing.

9. Sandwiches
Sandwiches are another one of the multi-ingredient dishes that account for almost half of the sodium Americans consume. The bread, processed meat, cheese and condiments often used to make sandwiches all contribute a significant amount of sodium (4).

For example, a six-inch submarine sandwich made with cold cuts averages 1,127 mg of sodium, or 49% of the RDI (7).

You can significantly cut back on sodium, by choosing unprocessed sandwich toppings, such as grilled chicken breast with sliced avocado and tomato.

10. Broths and Stocks
Packaged broths and stocks — used as the base for soups and stews or to flavor meat and vegetable dishes — are notoriously high in salt.

For example, 8 ounces (240 ml) of beef broth average 782 mg of sodium, or 34% of the RDI. Chicken and vegetable broths are similarly high in sodium (17, 18, 19).

Fortunately, you can easily find reduced-sodium broths and stocks, which have at least 25% less sodium per serving than the regular versions

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