Salt Shocker - Cottage Cheese - Too Much Sodium? - ChooseHealthLA.com
Not-So-Hidden Salt Shockers
Salt: The Other Sugar
Salt isn't as hot button an issue as sugar, even though both have well-established, detrimental effects on health. That may be in part because salt doesn't have a direct link to weight and obesity, which is such an emotionally-charged issue. You can get away with eating a high-salt diet for decades of your life without seeing the damage on the outside — around your waistline and thighs — but chances are, it will catch up with you eventually, in the form of high blood pressure and possibly something worse. The short-term benefits of a low-sodium diet aren't as tangible, and the long-term problems are far away, which makes it harder to convince the public it's a high health priority.
On top of that, it's more difficult to conceptualize how much salt is in foods. Health experts can grab the public's attention by dramatically unveiling the 17 teaspoons of straight sugar found in a 20-ounce bottle of soda, but even with the saltiest foods, we're talking about fractions of a teaspoon. The message just isn't as powerful.
And because we still don't pay enough attention to sodium as we should, companies are able to get away with putting outrageous amounts of salt into processed and restaurant foods, which supply about 75 percent of the salt in the U.S. diet. Sure, we might think to check the sodium in obvious offenders, like soup and other canned foods, but we're less likely to pay attention in foods that don't scream "salty", like breads, cereals, salad dressings, and frozen meals. (Heads up: Bread is actually the number one source of sodium in our diet, because we eat so much of it.)
Health Foods Can Be Salt Bombs
What's more, there are a huge number of seemingly healthy products — with an otherwise very appealing overall nutrition profile — that have ridiculously high sodium numbers. Here are some that stood out on a recent trip to the supermarket:
- Whole-Wheat Bread:I spotted brands with 200 mg per slice, or 400 mg per sandwich. That's 17 percent of the maximum daily recommended intake (2300 mg). I also came across a whole wheat English muffin with 530 mg (23 percent)!
- "Healthier" Chips:One brand of lentil chips had 420 mg (18 percent) per serving. As a comparison, that's about 2.5 times as much as a serving of regular potato chips.
- Low-Fat Cottage Cheese:Some brands clocked in at 450 mg per 1/2 cup (20 percent). Yikes!
- Hummus:Some flavors logged 140 mg per 2 Tbsp. If you ate 3 servings (a typical portion for a meal), you'd be consuming 420 mg (18 percent).
- Salad Dressing:Some "all-natural" and "organic" brands soared as high as 450 mg (20 percent) per 2 Tbsp.
- Whole-Grain Cereals:A few cereals went as high as 270 mg (12 percent) per serving, and many people pour more than one serving.
- Veggie Burgers:Many were in the 400 range, and one brand went as high as 500 mg (22 percent) per patty. Eat it on a salty bun and the sodium soars even higher.
- Pasta Sauce:These numbers shocked even me — some "organic" and "all-natural" brands topped 650 mg in just 1/2 cup.
That's a real shame, because outside of their high sodium levels, many of these products are good options with clean ingredient lists.
The good news is, the sodium information is right there on the Nutrition Facts Panel for all to see, and if you're already checking the label for calories, fat, and sugar, it only takes another second to assess the salt content. As a general rule of thumb, I advise looking for snacks with less than 200 milligrams sodium, and meals with less than 500 milligrams (of course, less is better). If you find that some of your favorite products are on the salty side, drop the manufacturer a note using Facebook or another social media channel. If enough people request changes, they'll be forced to listen.
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