Salt and high blood pressure

We hear warnings like "Put down that salt shaker!" all the time. And it's true that getting too much salt in our diet endangers our health, putting us at risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and kidney problems. But it's a warning we should take, well, with a grain of salt.

The truth is, the salt shaker pours out a mere 10% of our daily sodium intake. Health Canada recommends that we consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, the equivalent of one teaspoon of table salt. Basically, only a pinch out of that teaspoonful comes from the shaker. So, where does that other 90% come from?

Salt is sprinkled all over the grocery store shelves. Much of it turns up in processed or canned foods. Some is out in the open (we're looking at you, pretzels), while some hides in more surprising places. Before we get to the list of stealthier salt sources, consider the damage too much sodium can cause to your body.

Our bodies need only 1,000 mg to 1,500 mg of sodium per day to function properly (such as keeping fluids and electrolytes in balance), but many of us end up with much more than that. Excess sodium makes our bodies retain water, which puts excess pressure on the walls of blood vessels. Over time, the pressure can damage the blood vessels walls, which can cause the vessels to harden and narrow. This squeezing leaves less room for blood to move and forces the heart to work harder to pump against the pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.

So, to put the squeeze on health risks, cut back on your intake of these secret sodium sources:

Beyond the salt shaker
Food types Examples/Sodium content
Canned and dried soups 1 packet dried onion soup = 3,100 mg
1 cup chicken noodle soup = 639 mg
Sauces and gravies 1 cup tomato sauce = 1,284 mg
1 Tbsp soy sauce = 902 mg
1 serving jalapeño cheese sauce = 571 mg
1 cup turkey gravy = 1,373 mg
Processed meats 1 hot dog = 487 mg
3 slices bacon = 439 mg
1 can pink salmon = 2,515 mg
Canned juice 1 cup vegetable juice cocktail = 653 mg
1 cup tomato juice = 654 mg
Pickled foods 1 cup sauerkraut = 939 mg
1 Tbsp capers = 255 mg
5 canned olives = 192 mg
Prepackaged meals (frozen, instant, microwavable) 1 frozen chicken pot pie = 2,078 mg
1 rice and chicken stir fry = 632 mg
1 piece frozen fish = 332 mg
Fast food items 1 order Harvey's poutine = 2010 mg
1 McDonald's Egg McMuffin = 850 mg
1 Subway Cold Cut Combo = 1,550 mg

Other surprising salt sources:

1 cup Graham crackers = 508 mg
1 cup miso soup = 2,563 mg
1 cup cottage cheese = 918 mg
1 slice American cheese = 300 mg

Amy Toffelmire