What is it about trying to lower our salt intake that’s so difficult?
Most of us have heard the warnings about getting too much sodium, yet many of us still choose to pick up that salt shaker or order something from a restaurant that we know is just loaded with salt.
However, there’s a good portion of consumers that take heed of the medical warnings, and try their very best to incorporate meals that are healthier and try to use other flavors, like low-sodium options or natural ingredients to season their food.
And mostly, the sodium-conscious consumer does their best to avoid those store-bought items that are known to be plagued with salt -- like potato chips, frozen TV dinners or canned soups. By doing this, most would probably assume they’re being successful in their mission at cutting down the amount of salty foods they're bringing into their homes.
But what about those foods that aren’t typically thought of as high in in sodium? Meaning, those foods that don’t taste salty often fall below the radar.
Like breakfast cereals for example — although many of them are lumped into the healthier category by many consumers, some of them can have tremendous amounts of salt that you usually can’t even taste.
Take Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, which contains 210 milligrams per serving. That can add up if you’re eating it daily, and some of us like to eat cereal as a snack, downing a couple a bowls per sitting, and many of us do this because we think it’s healthier than tearing through a bag of chips.
And you can’t forget about children’s cereals, which always get a bad rap for being too high in sugar, and rightfully so, but parents should be equally concerned with the high sodium levels in some brands like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, made by General Mills, which has about 220 milligrams of sodium -- and we all know how much kids love to scarf that stuff down by the boatload.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least half of the U.S. population shouldn’t be consuming more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, and that 50 percent of the population is made up of people who have a history of high blood pressure, those with kidney problems, African-Americans and diabetic patients.
The other half of the population shouldn’t exceed 2,300 milligrams a day, says the CDC.
The government agency also explained the kinds of foods that aren’t normally talked about in high sodium discussions can be even more dangerous since people eat them more, thinking they’re staying away from overly salty foods.
In the CDC’s list of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it shows just how commonly eaten foods, that aren’t usually considered salty can really truly add up.
On the informational sheet, it shows that during the course of a day a bowl of cereal in the morning, a soup and sandwich for lunch and a quick slice of pizza with a salad can equate to over 3,000 milligrams of sodium for that one day, which is twice the recommended amount for some.
And although one may say, “Well, I’m not surprised a soup, sandwich and a slice of pizza has so much sodium,” they may not remember or realize that much of the salt is in the salad dressing, the bread for the sandwich and that big bowl of cereal you had in the morning.
Also below the high sodium radar are many of the popular coffee drinks that consumers buy these days, say experts, so consumers should be mindful of how much sodium they’re consuming if they’re making a daily trek to Starbucks or Dunking Donuts for a caffeine fix, especially some of the blended coffee drinks that have a high amount of sodium.
Also, if you take a look at the sodium levels in many of today’s ready-made pancake mixes, you’ll find they contain massive amounts of salt.
For example, a box of Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix has a whopping 740 milligrams per serving size, which reaches well over half of the recommended sodium intake for the day, so if you’re eating pancakes first thing in the morning, then you have what’s considered a normal lunch and dinner, there is a very good chance that you’ll exceed the 1,500 or 2,300 milligram count that the CDC suggests.
And it’s certainly not just breakfast foods that are high in sodium and sometimes sneak past us.
Watch the dessert
If you think you’ve successfully stayed away from too much salt on a given day, and decide to reward yourself after dinner with some dessert like cookies or prepackaged sweets, you could be getting way more sodium that you thought you were getting.
Like Entenmanns Carrot Iced Cake, that has 210 milligrams of sodium per serving, which can really add up if you continuously indulge. The company considers a serving slice to be only 67 grams, which is pretty tiny. Also, who has such a small piece of cake and just one slice at that when trying to satisfy a sweet fix?
A lot of muffins, donuts and candies are also high in sodium, and experts say consumers should consider these foods right along with those foods like potato chips or pretzels when trying to lower their sodium intake.
On average, Americans consume about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day and it’s safe to say that much of this sodium is coming from sources we're not even thinking of, say experts.
Experts also say to keep reading nutrition labels on packages, cans, on restaurant menus and on restaurant menu boards, and don’t assume that just because foods don’t taste salty they aren’t just as high in sodium or even more so than those foods that we more commonly associate with being high in salt.