Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

The Salty Six

by | Nov 19, 2012

Everybody knows that pickles are packed with salt. Cutting out pickles is the first—and easiest—step to begin avoiding salt in your food.  It’s also a no brainer.  We have therefore listed pickles at the very top of our lists of foods to steer clear of. But you may be surprised to know that excess salt in your food comes from foods you might never suspect.

A whopping 80 percent of all the excess salt we consume comes from processed foods that we eat on a daily basis. So while eliminating the salt shaker from your kitchen or dining room table is a great idea, you have to take further action to meet the recommendation by the American Heart Association (AHA) to limit your salt intake to less than 1,500 mg. (Check out our prior blog entry entitled “American Heart Association and Salt” to better understand what this recommendation really means.)

In honor of National Healthy Eating Day, the AHA highlighted the dangers of high sodium levels in common foods by listing the following “salty six” foods that are the top sources of sodium in today’s diets:

1. Bread and rolls

2. Cold cuts and cured meats

3. Pizza

4. Frozen Poultry items

5. Soup

6. Sandwiches

The last item, the sandwich—the most common lunch choice in America—caught my attention. Everybody seems to be eating some sort of a sandwich pretty much every day. You can easily avoid salty soup, frozen poultry and pizza. But avoiding a daily lunch sandwich! That may be difficult.

So just how much sodium are we packing away with each sandwich that we eat? Let us break it down.

Two slices of bread can contain almost 300 mg of salt.

Then we go to cured lunch meats, a sandwich staple that is right up there with pickles when it comes to sodium content. Even so called “healthy” or “reduced sodium” lunch meats contain hefty amounts of salt, especially if the amount of sodium listed refers to a single slice.

You probably know that lunch meats have salt, but cheese? Yes, they do. Some of the biggest offenders: American, Sharp Cheddar and Provolone.

To top it all off, most of us add some kind of liquid condiments—mustard, mayo, ketchup, etc. to our sandwich. Otherwise, it’s too dry to swallow. That contributes even more salt.

Add up all the above sodium and you have over 1,500 mg just in one sandwich. So you are already over the limit. Should if you fall into any of the special categories that have to watch salt even more closely—for example if you’re overweight, already have high blood pressure, diabetes or have heart disease or are of African American descent—God help you.

What a tragedy that we haven’t figured out how to make lunch meats and cheeses without salt. And why do we need to add salt to bread, our most basic food staple? There is absolutely no excuse for this. Millions of unsuspecting people start their days with toast, have more bread in their lunch sandwich and eat a roll with dinner. Wouldn’t it be nice if the food manufacturers could at least offer the option of unsalted bread? That is not asking a lot.


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