Sodium Doesn't Always Mean Salt

Naturally Savvy
Naturally Savvy

Despite your best efforts, your blood pressure remains high, your shoes often feel too small for your feet, and some nights it is difficult to remove your rings. Your body clearly indicates signs of water retention; however, you do not add salt to your food… at least not intentionally.

The current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendation for sodium intake is 1,500 mg per day, with the Upper Limit set at 2,300 mg. However, most Americans consume 3,500 mg or more of sodium each day. Why are we missing the mark? Perhaps it's because we are not aware of the difference between sodium and salt.

Sodium does not necessarily mean table salt. Table salt is a hardening agent (as in hardening of the arteries) comprised of sodium and chloride. Sodium, an important mineral and electrolyte, naturally occurs in meats, nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. These foods account for only 10% of daily sodium intake. The remainder comes from the table salt that we add to our food (amounting to about 15%), and from processed foods – responsible for a whopping 75% of our sodium intake!

A correct balance between sodium and water in the body is essential for good health. When sodium intake is excessive, the kidneys work harder to excrete the unwanted compound. Diets high in sodium often lead to fluid retention (edema), high blood pressure, stroke, kidney stones, and heart attacks, in addition to contributing towards osteoporosis, heartburn, stomach cancer, and exercise-induced asthma.

One level teaspoon of salt provides 2,132 mg of sodium. Even if you do not add salt to your cooking, read product labels to identify hidden sources of sodium such as sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) and monosodium glutamate (MSG). The biggest culprits are fast foods, processed foods, lunch meats, prepared soups, and condiments.

Sodium in Fast Food

It's no secret! Fast foods are not only a major source of fat and calories, but of sodium as well.

The sodium content of some favorite fast foods is listed here:

Applebee's Grilled Steak Caesar Salad (no toast) 1,953 mg per Entrée sized salad
Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich, Regular 953 mg per sandwich
Burger King French Fries Large 510 mg for 159 g serving size
Burger King Original Whopper Sandwich with cheese 1,330 mg for 307 serving size
KFC (original recipe) drumstick 1,020 mg per 3 pieces
McDonald's Big Mac Sandwich 1,020 mg for 209 g serving size
McDonald's Crispy Chicken Sandwich 1,080 mg for 182 g serving size
McDonald's Egg McMuffin sandwich 760 mg for 134 g serving size
Pizza Hut Pepperoni Pan Pizza 900 mg per 1 slice (1/8 of pizza)
Quizno's Salad: Flatbread Chopped Roasted Chicken Honey Mustard with Dressing 2,000 mg per salad
Taco Bell, Beef Supreme Soft Taco 650 mg per 1 taco
Wendy's Ultimate Chicken Grill 950 mg per sandwich
Wendy's Garden Sensations Mandarin Chicken with Almonds, Crispy Noodles & Dressing 1,120 mg
White Castle Chicken Breast with Cheese 710 mg per sandwich


Sodium Hide & Seek Where is sodium hiding in your kitchen? You might be surprised. Take a look at the label of any processed, canned, and packaged food.

This list should give you an idea of the sodium content in some common foods:

Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup 650 mg of sodium per 1 cup Amy's Lentil Soup 590 mg per 1 cup
Campbell's Cream of Mushroom 640 mg of sodium per ½ cup Imagine Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup 390 mg per 1 cup
Mr. Noodles Spicy Beef 850 mg of sodium per half of the package Pacific Hearty Beef Barley Soup 790 per 1 cup
Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup 1040 mg of sodium per 1 cup Imagine Organic Sweet Potato Soup 400 mg per 1 cup
Classico Alfredo and Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce 860 mg per ½ cup Eden Foods, Organic Diced Tomatoes 5 mg per ½ cup
Ragu Original mushroom Tomato Sauce 670 mg per ½ cup Muir Glen Organic Stewed Tomatoes 290 mg per ½ cup
Wonder Bread, 2 slices, Classic Sandwich 260 per 2 slices Ezekiel Sprouted Bread 150 mg per 2 slices
Hamburger bun 146 mg per 1 bun Ezekiel (Food for Life) bun 170 mg per 1 bun
Corn Flakes 199 mg per 1 cup Kashi Go Lean 85 mg per 1 cup
Special K Original Cereal 220 mg per 1 cup Nature's Path Flax Plus 40 mg per 1 cup
Lipton SideKicks Noodles, Butter & Herb 1,070 mg per 1 cup Whole wheat pasta 15 mg per 1.5 cups
Rice A Roni Spanish Rice 990 mg per 1/3 cup (dry) Brown rice 5 mg per ½ cup (cooked)
Stouffer's Pastaria 3 Cheese Macaroni 1,200 mg per 1 package Brown rice pasta 5 mg per ½ cup
Turkey deli meat 213 mg per 3.5" square Turkey breast, roasted 54 mg per 3 oz.
Maple Lodge Farms Chicken Breast 670 mg per 3 slices Chicken breast, meat only 63 mg per 3 oz.
Bacon 555 mg per 3 slices Pork, fresh tenderloin 48 mg per 3 oz.
Smoked Salmon 650 mg per 2 oz. Fresh sockeye salmon 56 mg per 3 oz.
1% milk 143 mg per 1 cup Rice Dream, Original 100 mg per 1 cup
Cheddar cheese 350 mg per ½ cup Plain yogurt 55 mg per ½ cup
Dill pickle 390 mg per 1 medium spear Cucumber, raw with peel 6 mg per 8" cucumber
Ketchup 190 mg per 1 tbsp. Annie's Organic Ketchup 150 mg per 1 tbsp.
Chipotle Salsa (Tomato) 650 per 1 serving (4 oz.) Newman's Own Organic Salsa 0 mg per 1 serving

The sodium content of packaged foods is clearly labeled in the Nutrition Facts panel. Check the serving size to ensure you're staying within your 1,500 mg limit.

Read labels for other hidden sources of sodium:

  Baking powder (contains sodium bicarbonate)
  Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  Celery salt
  Disodium phosphate
  Garlic salt
  Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  Onion salt
  Sodium alginate
  Sodium benzoate
  Sodium bisulfate
  Sodium hydroxide
  Sodium propionate
  Soy sauce


Reducing Sodium in Your Diet

Cutting down on sodium doesn't mean bland or boring meals. There are many ways to creatively reduce the amount of sodium in your diet without sacrificing taste. Here are some tips:

  • Eat mainly whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally low in sodium. Avoid or be aware of processed, canned and convenience foods.
  • Replace your table salt (sodium chloride) with natural sea salt. Sea salt (pale pink or light grey) is obtained from sea water and is rich in dozens of important trace minerals.
  • Season foods with sea vegetables like kelp, nori, and dulse. Seaweed imparts a mild salty flavor with very little sodium.
  • Spice up your life. You won't miss the salt if you're creative with spices and herbs. Also, try seasoning your food with wine, lemon, lime, or vinegar to give food more flavors.
  • Use sodium reduced or natural products, such as dry cereals, with no added sodium.
  • If you eat canned foods, rinse the food under water first. This can reduce the sodium content by up to 40%! However, fresh is always better.
  • Limit cured foods (such as bacon and ham), foods packed in brine (such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives and sauerkraut), and condiments such as horseradish, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and teriyaki sauce (or use low sodium versions of these condiments).
  • Look for low-sodium soups and broth. Even better, make your own.
  • Purchase or make natural nut butters instead of regular peanut butter.
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Lisa has been in her own practice for over 15 years and specializes in weight management. She teaches natural nutrition in both corporate and educational environments and is a shining example of someone who practices what she teaches. Lisa is a nutritionist and educator specializing in weight management. After losing weight several years ago through a more natural diet and by improving her digestion, she committed to sharing her new-found knowledge and returned to school to study nutrition. Over the past decade, her Nu-Vitality Weight Program has helped employees at numerous corporations lose thousands of pounds. In addition, Lisa regularly consults for groups and individuals with unique nutritional needs such as police officers and athletes. Lisa has been featured on the Discovery Channel, numerous radio programs and is a contributor to various publications. Additionally, she teaches nutrition at multiple post-secondary schools, has taught natural food cooking workshops, and authored two books.