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Top 10 Salty Foods To Avoid in Your Diet

Bread products are high in salt

Even though it’s World Salt Awareness Week, you should be aware of the amount of salt you consume every day, not just this week. To help you steer clear or excess salt (sodium) intake, which can be hazardous to your health, here is a list of the top 10 salty foods to avoid in your diet—or at least limit how much you eat.

Most Americans eat too much salt

A recent study authored by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in Mortality & Morbidity Report Weekly Vital Signs noted that 90% of Americans consume too much salt: an average of 3,266 mg of sodium daily when the recommendation is 2,300 mg for healthy individuals younger than 50 and 1,500 mg daily for blacks, adults older than 50, and people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Since you already know how much salt you should consume, the next step is to monitor your salt consumption for a few days to see how much you are actually taking in. That means you must read food labels. Keep track in a small notebook or iPad that you carry with you.

Top 10 types of salty foods
Before we look at the top 10 types of foods that typically contain the most salt, here are a few caveats. Because there are so many brands and varieties available in each food type, it is important to check the labels on every product. Read the labels every time you buy a product, because food manufacturers often change their ingredients.

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Also, do not be fooled by claims on packages such as “low in sodium” or “lower in salt.” An item may indeed be lower in sodium than it was previously, but the new sodium level may still be high.

A final warning: if you eat out, it can be difficult to know how much sodium is in an item unless you select a low-sodium menu item that has the sodium content listed or ask the manager or waitstaff. You can also check the ingredients online for some restaurants (especially fast-food restaurants, which are best avoided because of high salt and fat content).

  1. Breads and rolls. Bread items top the list not so much because they are high in sodium (although many are) but because people tend to eat a lot of them.
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats. These include bologna, hot dogs, ham, salami, and similar foods. One thing that makes these foods doubly hazardous is that they are often used in a sandwich—with bread or rolls.
  3. Pizza. Fresh or frozen, pizza is a haven for salty items, from the bread crust to the sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and other toppings.
  4. Fresh and processed poultry. Some of the more popular items in this category are chicken nuggets, BBQ chicken wings, and fried chicken
  5. Soups. The main culprit in this group is canned soup, and the amount of sodium can vary widely between brands and even within the same type of soup and manufacturer. Read labels carefully.
  6. Cheeseburgers and other sandwiches. Fast food sandwiches are the main characters in this category.
  7. Cheese. Americans love cheese—on sandwiches, pizza, fried as an appetizer, in casseroles and tacos, and on top of chili. There are some low-salt varieties, but beware of serving sizes.
  8. Pasta dishes. Spaghetti and pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and other pasta dishes are havens for sodium, especially the packaged and frozen varieties.
  9. Meat dishes. Meatloaf, roast beef and gravy, and other meat based entrees, especially frozen varieties, are typically loaded with sodium.
  10. Salty snacks. Pretzels, potato chips, popcorn, pork rinds, and other snacks can be found in low-sodium varieties.

If this list makes you feel like there’s nothing left to eat, don’t despair! Just think natural: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, fresh nuts and seeds, and unprocessed or minimally processed foods are your best and healthiest choices. Season your foods with fresh herbs and spices, lemon and other citrus juices, and natural fruit juices, and you’ll find it much easier to avoid the top 10 salty foods and make every week World Salt Awareness Week.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Moshfegh AJ et al. Vital signs: food categories contributing the most to sodium consumption—United States, 2007-2008. MMWR 2012: 61

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