The Simple Way to Avoid Hidden Sodium

By Paula Detwiller

Do you know how much salt you consume daily? As the federal government pointed out recently, the foods we eat often contain a lot more sodium than we realize, even when they don’t taste particularly salty! For example:

  • 1 packet Quaker instant oatmeal, maple & brown sugar flavor- 253 mg sodium
  • 2 Tablespoons fat-free Italian dressing – 430 mg sodium
  • 3 ounces of bacon – 620 mg sodium
  • McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese – 1,190 mg sodium
  • Taco Bell Chicken Fiesta Taco Salad – 1,830 mg sodium
  • KFC Chicken and Biscuit Bowl – 2,420 mg sodium

How Much is Too Much?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 70% of Americans are eating more than twice the recommended level of salt every day, putting them at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Excess sodium in the diet is also linked to kidney disorders, digestive diseases, and osteoporosis.

So what’s the recommended level? No more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. And if you are over 51, African-American, or already have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, the recommended daily level is 1,500 mg.

The Answer: Eat Fresh

Because the worst offenders for high sodium content are packaged, processed, and fast foods, your best bet is to cook your own meals and “eat fresh” whenever possible. Fruits and vegetables are naturally salt-free and provide loads of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Make your own salad dressings with flavored vinegar and olive oil. Use dried beans instead of canned (one half-cup of canned black beans = 480 mg of sodium!). Rather than using table salt, try using cilantro, basil, thyme, rosemary, cayenne pepper, garlic, onion, and citrus juices to liven up the flavor of your food.

The Delray GreenMarket has 60 feet of fresh, locally grown produce, so you can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables each weekend. Our vendors also offer a great selection of fresh herbs and gourmet seasonings. Check online for helpful low-salt tips and recipes. And remember: restaurant meals can often contain an entire day’s worth of sodium—so don’t be shy about asking the chef to “hold the salt.”

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