How to spot sneaky sodium in your diet

Cutting back on sodium not as hard as you’d expect

More than 70% of the sodium that Americans consume each day comes from processed foods and restaurant dishes -- and too much can lead to significant health issues.

Most Americans are consuming far too much sodium, but it’s not coming from the salt shaker.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the difference between sodium and salt: Sodium is a mineral found naturally in many foods. A small amount is essential for muscle and nerve function. Salt is a chemical compound made up of sodium and chloride -- it’s what we actually add to our food.

While people tend to use “salt” and “sodium” interchangeably, the two are not actually the same.

One this is clear, though: Too much sodium is wreaking havoc on Americans’ health.

More than 70% of the sodium that Americans consume each day comes from processed foods and restaurant dishes. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

Experts say that Americans are not cutting back on sodium as much as they should be.

Related: Study: These 3 healthy eating patterns can improve child obesity, overall health

Chances are, there is a lot of sneaky sodium in your diet:

  • One slice of bread can contain 150 mg of sodium.
  • Some cereals have as much as 300 mg per serving.
  • One cup of cottage cheese packs a whopping 746 mg of sodium.
  • Just three ounces of cooked shrimp has 805 mg.
  • A cup of canned soup can contain up to 1,000 mg of sodium.

And don’t be fooled by different types of salt, either. Sea salt, pink Himalayan salt and coarse table salt, for example, will each contain a good deal of sodium.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidelines to encourage food manufacturers, restaurants and food service companies to scale back on sodium content.

But you can make better choices for yourself now by reading labels on food products.

Be sure to buy low-sodium products, or products that say “no salt added” when buying processed or packaged foods. It’s also a great idea to buy vegetables that are fresh if possible -- but if you’re buying frozen or canned vegetables, choose options that say “no salt” or “no sauce” added.

Instead of using salt when cooking, use alternatives like garlic, citrus juice, and/or salt-free seasonings or spices. This will help you replace or reduce the amount of salt you add to your food.

Cutting back on sodium may not be as hard as you expect. While reducing added salt will make food taste different, our taste buds tend to adapt after 2-3 weeks, so don’t give up too quickly.

Read more: Here’s how much the FDA is hoping to lower daily salt intake for Americans

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.