The average American consumes roughly 3,300 milligrams of sodium a day. That's 1,000 more milligrams than we should be, according to the Center for Disease Control. And the fact that we're eating so much is killing us.
Here are some scare stats for you: 31% of Americans have high blood pressure. (Medical costs related to high blood pressure add up to $47.5 billion a year.) Hypertension, another affliction related to heavy sodium intake, affects 67 million Americans, including two-thirds of those over 60. In America alone, between 40,000 and 90,000 people die annually due to sodium-related issues.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
A new study from England offers a possible solution. Between 2001 and 2011, the country decided to take the salt issue seriously. They asked food producers to reduce the salt in their items -- each category of food having specific goals to hit -- and when they did, the general salt consumption in Britain fell by 15 percent. How has this helped?
The new study shows that this drop in salt intake has been accompanied by a substantial reduction in average blood pressure, a 40 percent drop in deaths from heart attacks and a 42 percent decline in deaths from stroke.
Which is to say: It's time to cut down on sodium.
The big problem we have is that a lot of our sodium is "hidden." It's not as if we're deciding to coat our meals in generous helpings of table salt. It's that sodium is insidious, and everywhere. A can of sugary, delicious Coca-Cola Classic has 30 milligrams of sodium in it. A simple can of tomatoes has 10 times that waiting for us inside. From soup to nuts, most everything we eat has too much. With that in mind, here are five foods that are higher in sodium than you might think:
The bowl of cereal is the breakfast of choice for the lazy or time-constrained, so it's not shocking that some may not be great for you. But generally, we think that if we steer clear from the cartoon characters and just buy "adult" cereals we should be fine. Wrong. One cup of Grape Nuts has 580 mg of sodium. Granola can have well above 300 mg, depending on what's added. The good news is there are plenty of low or no sodium options out there. You just have to read the label.
2. Vegetable Juice
No one drinks a vegetable juice mixture (something like, say, a V8) for fun. It's consumed as a conscious effort to do something "good" for your body. Instead of going the normal route of cracking open a Coke or overly sweetened fruit beverage, a veggie juice is a message to your body: I Am Taking Care Of You. Too bad, then, they're loaded with sodium. The aforementioned can of V8? It has 660 milligrams of sodium. That's just a tad under two large orders of McDonald's French fries.
3. Cottage Cheese
Frankly, this one caught me off guard, as cottage cheese has been a regular item in my grocery cart for years. While it's full of protein (25 grams in a cup) and calcium (18% of the FDA's recommended intake), it's also full of sodium. Full of it. To the tune of 819 milligrams in a single cup. Now, no one's going to eat three cups of cottage cheese a day, but if you did, you'd be well over the amount of sodium you should be consuming.
When it comes to making a sandwich, you mostly pay attention to what's inside. The meats and the cheeses and the various toppings are the places to nitpick, making sure to not go overboard on unhealthy items. But in reality, you should be paying more attention to the two sides as well. One piece of white bread has 147 mg. A piece of whole wheat pita bread has 284 mg. Sourdough bread has 328 mg. And remember, unless you're making a mockery of the Earl of Sandwich, each sandwich has two pieces of these helpings of sodium.
Personally, the only way that I can justify paying the ridiculous amount of money that ballparks charge for hot dogs is by following my purchase with a trip to the nearby condiments section and loading up. But what I'm actually doing is accidentally dropping an entire sodium bomb on my body. A tablespoon of ketchup has 154 mg of sodium. A tablespoon of mustard has 57 mg. A tablespoon of relish has 122. If you go as overboard as I do, you're basically eating a second hot dog's worth of sodium because of the "extras." Next time, just get a few diced onions and call it a day. Or, better yet, don't get the hot dog at all.
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