Pass the salt? Not so fast.
A whopping 70% of the sodium in our diets comes from 25 food categories, according to a new report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Using data from a national survey done in 2013 and 2014, the report ranks those food groups based on how much of our salt intake they account for.
While the science is mixed on whether salt is a net positive or negative for our health, too much of anything is usually a recipe for problems.
The CDC’s report says most of the foods ranked highly on the list were premade foods from grocery stores and meals from restaurants. (The report does not factor in additional salt we add at the dinner table but accounts for salt added in food processing and cooking.)
Here’s the list.
25. Rice -- Although rice on its own is naturally low in salt, most of us add more than a pinch when we cook it, and the CDC says this is largely to blame for its place on the list.
24. Cakes and pies -- Typically eaten to satisfy a sweet craving, pre-made cakes and pies can contain a pretty surprising amount of sodium. A slice of cherry pie packs more than 300 mg of sodium or about 14% of the USDA's daily recommended allowance.
23. Other vegetables and combinations -- Like rice, veggies are naturally low in salt, but a lot of us like to add seasonings (which often list salt as their first ingredient) or soy sauce when we grill or stir-fry them.
22. French fries and other fried white potatoes -- We expected this one to rank higher on the list, but most of the salt on fries is added at the table.
21. Ready-to-eat cereal -- The sodium content of cereal varies widely: A serving of Post Grape Nuts packs 290 mg of sodium, while Quaker Shredded Wheat has just 3 mg. But Americans seem to prefer the saltier varieties.
20. Mashed potatoes and white potato mixtures -- Potatoes themselves are not the enemy here, but pre-packaged mixtures and salt added during cooking can ramp up the salt content of your favourite Thanksgiving side dish.
19. Fish -- While it's naturally low in salt, fish that's been smoked or cured can contain high amounts of sodium. Sardines, caviar, and anchovies in particular tend to pack a lot.
18. All plain milk -- This one might come as a surprise, but milk contains quite a bit of natural sodium: A cup of low-fat milk has about 100 mg.
13. Bacon, frankfurters, and sausages -- Sorry, bacon lovers. Smoked and cured meats are very high in sodium, with 5 bacon slices containing nearly 1,000 mg of sodium (close to half your daily recommended allowance).
6. Burritos and tacos -- This food category was a new addition to the CDC's ranking, having been previously lumped in with 'mixed Mexican dishes.' It appears to be a pretty hefty contributor to our overall sodium intake.
5. Soups -- Many soups can be low in calories and still contain high amounts of salt. A cup of Campbell's Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup has just 160 calories but 920 mg of sodium.
4. Cold cuts and cured meats -- Curing and smoking adds a hefty amount of salt to meat. A package of pastrami packs 765 mg of sodium.
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