Study Food Labels to Help Lower Your Sodium Intake

Study food labels to learn about the sodium content of the products you consume. If you judge sodium content based on taste alone, you will still be taking high amounts of sodium into your body. The most obvious high-salt foods to avoid include bacon and other cured meat products, canned soup, salted nuts, potato chips, lunch meats, etc.

Sodium also hides in certain foods you might not suspect. These include canned vegetables, tomato juice and tuna fish. Foods can have high sodium content but not taste very salty. Many sauces and seasonings are high in sodium. These include soy sauce, barbeque sauce, catsup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, relishes and salad dressings. While ninety percent of our sodium intake comes by way of salt, there are other additives we need to watch out for. Baking additives such as baking powder, baking soda and monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG, it’s used by some restaurants and in many barbeque flavored potato chips and sauces) contain sodium. Sodium is naturally present in most foods, thereby making it almost impossible to eat a sodium-free diet.

What is the relationship between sodium and table salt? Table salt is sodium chloride, 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. You will have two domains in which to track sodium: recipes and food labels. Since sodium is a component of salt and recipes call for salt, you will need to do a little conversion. Use the following table as a guide to convert from salt to the equivalent amounts of sodium.

 

Amount of Salt Amount of Sodium
¼ teaspoon 500 milligrams
½ teaspoon 1000 milligrams
¾ teaspoon 1500 milligrams
1 teaspoon 2000 milligrams

 

Most of the time, food labels will provide the sodium levels for that food. The catch is that the amount of sodium indicated on the label corresponds to a single “serving size” determined by the manufacturer. So if manufacturers do not want their bag of super salty nuts to appear too unhealthy, they may declare that the serving size is 14 grams (or 1/2 ounce). This is a fraction of a handful and would not really satiate anyone’s appetite for a snack. In fact, that amount would do little more than leave you wanting more. But the sodium level reported on the label may be more palatable for someone looking to keep their sodium level down. What an ultra-informed consumer needs to do is consider what thier actual serving size would be. It may be more or less than what the manufacturer prints as the suggested serving size. Then you need to calculate just how much sodium will be in your specific serving size.

This “serving size” tweaking can go the other direction, too. If a manufacturer would like their super sugary chewy fruit snacks to appear more nutritious than they really are, they could print a suggested serving size of 16 ounces in order to crank up the percentage of vitamin C contained in each serving.  Be aware of these tricks and determine your own serving size.

 

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