12 Dangerous Hidden Sources of Salt

Some foods are naturally high in sodium, while others have salt added to enhance flavor or help extend shelf-life.

Reading labels can be confusing because terms like “unsalted” and “salt-free” do not mean that the product is without sodium.

Reducing your sodium consumption is a healthy decision because high levels are linked to increased risk of hypertension.

Ask your doctor about the health benefits of a low-sodium diet. Many people find it’s much harder than they expected to reduce sodium intake, and the culprit is often hidden salt.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest “salt traps” to avoid:

1. Cheese and dairy products
Salt is used in the making and preserving of many cheeses and cheese products, yet often we don’t think of them as salty.

Milk itself has 120 milligrams of sodium per half-cup serving; choose buttermilk or chocolate milk instead and the level rises to 150 milligrams.

And a half-cup serving of a low-fat cottage cheese has twice as much as sodium (360 milligrams) as a serving of potato chips.

2. Vegetable juices/canned vegetables
They often have preservatives, sauces, or seasonings that add extra sodium. They help you get the 2 to 2.5 cups of veggies you need a day. But they can have a lot of sodium.

One cup of vegetable juice cocktail has 479 milligrams. A cup of canned cream-style corn may have 730 milligrams.

3. Canned soups
Many flavors of canned soup, from home-style chicken to simple tomato, contain 700 – 1,300 milligrams of sodium per serving.

French onion soup is one of the worst, with 1,300 mg per serving. Some cans of chicken noodle soup contain 940 milligrams of sodium.

4. Frozen meals
Frozen foods are convenient, relatively inexpensive and possess a fairly long storage life. Salt is also easier to obtain and cheaper to use than higher-quality flavorings, spices and herbs.

Sodium is added as a preservative in some foods. Frozen foods provide more variety than canned foods and less preparatory time than creating a meal from scratch.

Frozen foods can be risky for those on a low-sodium diet, however, and often contain enough sodium to be considered unhealthy even for those with a regular diet.

5. Breakfast cereals
Store-bought breakfast cereals vary widely in salt content, so read labels carefully. And beware the “healthy” label; some of the highest-sodium cereals are those we consider healthiest, such as raisin bran.

Some brands of raisin bran have up to 250 milligrams of sodium per cup.

6. Baked goods and bake mixes
A bagel might not taste particularly salty, but one bagel can contain 500-700 milligrams of sodium, depending on the size and flavor, while one piece of whole-wheat pita bread has 340 milligrams of sodium.

Baked goods made with white flour aren’t necessarily worse than those made with whole wheat; one slice of whole-wheat bread contains 132 milligrams of sodium, and a sandwich doubles that. One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium.

Sweet baked goods can be loaded with hidden salt.

But an even bigger surprise lurks in baking mixes: One box of self-rising cornmeal contains a startling 1,860 milligrams of sodium, or 440 milligrams per one 3-tablespoon serving; a single corn muffin made from a mix has 400 milligrams of sodium; and one slice of yellow cake made from a mix has 220 milligrams of sodium.

7. Marinades, flavorings, sauces
Some of your favorites may be super salty. One tablespoon of teriyaki sauce can have 690 milligrams of sodium. The same amount of soy sauce may have up to 1,024 milligrams.

Half a cup of sauces may have 554 milligrams of sodium, and that’s barely enough to coat a helping of pasta.

8. Cured, smoked, and deli meats
Three ounces of sausage, a very small serving contains 600-900 milligrams of sodium.

And that’s just the beginning.

Bacon has 621 milligrams per 3 ounces. One piece of beef jerky has more than 400 milligrams, while two slices of salami tops 600 milligrams.

There are low-sodium deli meats available, but read labels carefully for the actual amount of sodium per serving rather than the percent reduced.

9. Salty Snacks
They’re hard to resist, but they may have a lot of sodium in every ounce. Potato chips have 136 milligrams, cheese puffs 240, and pretzels 385.

10. Soda
A can of soda including diet soda is equal to 12 ounces, and this amount won’t contribute a large amount of sodium to your diet.

If you drink several sodas a day, however, the beverages can contribute large amounts of sodium to your daily intake.

A can of club soda contains the most sodium with 75 milligrams. A can of grape soda contains 56 milligrams and a can of root beer has 48 milligrams.

Orange-flavored soda contains 45 milligrams per can. Both lemon-lime soda and pepper-type sodas contains 37 milligrams of sodium per can. A can of cola contains 15 milligrams of sodium.

11. Hot Chocolate
The favorite choice for the term “Hot Chocolate” is 1 cup of Hot Cocoa Milk which has about 110 mg of sodium.

12. Fast food, including “healthy” choices
Choosing supposedly healthier choices such as salads and sandwiches, which can be loaded with salt hidden in sauces and dressings.

Hamburgers are also big offenders, particularly once you add cheese; a double Whopper with cheese contains approximately 1,450 mg of sodium — pretty much a full day’s maximum for someone on a low-salt diet.

How much sodium do you consume a day?
Consider what you eat: If you eat from any one portion of above mentioned food per day, you would have exceeded your daily need of 2,400 mg sodium a day.

In general, the more processed the food is, the more sodium it is likely to have.

Store-bought sauces, dressings and condiments are especially high in sodium, but so are most pickles, olives, cured deli meats, pizzas, fried chicken, crackers, pre-seasoned rice and vegetable juices.

Restaurant meals are often heavy in sodium also because restaurateurs don’t want their food thought of as bland.

The best way to ensure a low-sodium diet is to cook your meals at home and use fresh ingredients that don’t come from a jar or package.