In her upcoming book Blood Pressure Down: The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs, registered dietitian Dr. Janet Bond Brill offers tips on lowering your blood pressure naturally. We asked her to help ID some of the “salt shockers” that are hiding in your diet, and could be raising your BP.
Where is most of the sodium coming from in our daily diets? If you think it’s the salt shaker, think again. A whopping 80 percent comes from sodium-soaked processed and restaurant foods. In an effort to help Americans pinpoint where the salt is hiding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that ten unsuspecting food types account for 44 percent of the salt we eat every day, the “salty 10.” Many of these foods do not taste salty so can be deceiving. So here are the top six saltiest foods to be aware of and some less salty swaps to substitute:
1. Breads and rolls. Although each slice of bread may not seem to be high in sodium, the fact that we eat so many servings a day makes this unsuspecting food our number one source of sodium overload.
Healthy substitutions: Try purchasing low sodium varieties of bread. Check the labels and buy brands labeled either “low sodium”—140 mg or less per serving—or “no sodium”—less than 5 mg per serving. Food for Life Ezekiel breads tend to be lower on the salt scale. Try their Low Sodium Sprouted Wheat Bread—delicious and zero sodium!
2. Cold cuts and meats. Just a measly 2 ounces (or 6 really thin slices) of deli meat can contain almost half of your entire daily sodium limit. Different brands can have drastically different amounts so here is where being a label sleuth really pays off.
Healthy substitutions: Try purchasing low sodium varieties of deli meats. Boar’s Head has an entire all-natural line, which contains much less sodium than their traditional counterparts. Just be sure to check the label as even the reduced versions of deli meat can still pack a sodium wallop. Try their All Natural Cap-Off Top Round Oven Roasted Beef—delicious and just 140 mg sodium per 2 ounce serving!
3. Pizza. Pizza is basically comprised of salty bread topped with salty tomato sauce, coated with gobs of fatty, salty cheese (and high salt meats such as pepperoni). In fact, a single slice of pizza can contain 1000 mg of sodium (over half of your daily sodium limit).
Healthy substitutions: Make pizza a special occasion meal. Order it with less cheese and vegetable topping. Better yet, try making your own pizza at home. The sauce and cheese is where much of the sodium lies, so make your own sauce using low sodium brands of tomatoes. Add healthy vegetable toppings such as roasted garlic, eggplant and caramelized onions. Top with just a touch of flavorful cheese to add taste
4. Poultry. While most people don’t think of chicken, for example, as a high sodium food, they can actually be quite deceived. It is common practice in the poultry industry to inject raw chicken meat with salt to enhance the flavor—termed “enhancing” or “plumping.” The amount of sodium in poultry will vary depending on the preparation methods, so once again it is important to question purveyors and read labels.
Healthy substitutions: Fresh, natural chicken contains just 73 mg sodium per 4 ounce serving. Look for “fresh” poultry products without added sodium. Foster Farms, a California-based poultry producer sells fresh chicken with nothing in it except chicken!
5. Soup. Just one cup of canned soup can contain almost 1000 mg of sodium (and who eats just one cup?). Most commercial soups are simply salt water in a can or a bowl off the menu. This is because food manufacturers and restaurateurs use sodium to both preserve the foods and enhance the food’s flavor and texture.
Healthy substitutions: Your best bet is to check the labels and search for the lowest sodium brand of soup you find palatable. Pacific Natural Foods Light Sodium Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup is made with roasted vegetables—which up the flavor factor without salt—and clocks in at a sodium content of 360 mg per cup. For even lower sodium soups, try making them at home suing fresh herbs and spices to flavor the soup, allowing you to adjust the sodium content downward. Indian curry seasonings combine sweet and savory spices that bring a delicious taste to your table without the salt!
6. Sandwiches. Commercial sandwiches, especially those found at fast food locales, tend to contain massive amounts of sodium. For example, a single fast food burger can pack in close to 1000 mg of sodium. Garnish that burger with a pickle and you up the sodium content an additional 1250 mg.
Healthy substitutions: Try cutting down on your sandwich intake; maybe order half a sandwich with a salad. Better yet, make your own sandwich at home using lower sodium bread stuffed with lower sodium fillers such as roasted almond butter—see recipe below) and sliced bananas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JANET BRILL, PhD, RD, LDN, is a nationally recognized expert in cardiovascular disease prevention and the author of Cholesterol Down and Prevent a Second Heart Attack. She has been a nutritionist in private practice for many years. For more information about Dr. Janet Brill, visit drjanet.com.