Even if you don't take a salt shaker to your food at each meal, you're probably still getting much more than the recommended daily amount of sodium -- most Americans are. The American Heart Association estimates we eat an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day. That's more than double their recommended amount of 1,500 mg, and it puts us at increased risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis, among other things.
Last week, the AHA announced a "Change Your Salty Ways in 21 Days" challenge via its Facebook page, aimed at getting Americans to lose their taste for oversalted foods by tracking their salt intake for 3 weeks. Central to the campaign are the "Salty Six," six popular food categories that contain far more than their fair share of salt.
Check out the list below to see where your sodium overload might be coming from.
1. Breads and Rolls - One piece of bread can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. Throw in another and you've reached about a quarter of your daily salt allowance without even putting anything between those two slices. The AHA recommends scanning food labels to find the lowest-salt brands -- and it can't hurt to cut back on your overall bread consumption.
2. Cold Cuts & Cured Meats - Our love of bacon and sausage, not to mention cold cuts, is catching up with us. Even otherwise healthy deli meats like sliced turkey breast are often loaded with salt (one serving of deli turkey could have as much as 1,050 - and then you're almost done for the day). Again, look for the lower-salt brands and remember your portion control.
3. Pizza - Nearly every part of the pie is a source of sneaky sodium, from the dough to the tomato sauce to the mozzarella cheese. Add cured meat toppings like pepperoni, sausage or ham, and the sodium content skyrockets even further. You're better off sticking with veggie toppings and avoiding the extra cheese, or making your own pies at home to control the salt content.
By Kurt Stricker/Getty Images/Flickr RF
You might not choose to sprinkle salt on your pizza, but the average slice already contains far more sodium than you might suspect, thanks to the crust, cheese and meat toppings.
4. Poultry - Americans eat more chicken than any other meat, but we don't always make the healthiest choices. Fried, canned and processed poultry is heavily salted, and even fresh chicken may be pumped with salt water before it's packaged. Choose fresh, skinless chicken and check the label to make sure it contains no added salt, the AHA says.
5. Soup - Just a cup of chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 mg of sodium, and most of us eat more than one cup. Luckily, many brands make low-sodium varieties.
6. Sandwiches - They're comprised of many of the salty items listed above, so it's no surprise that sandwiches are often salt bombs. Choose low-salt cold cuts, cheeses and condiments, try making it open-faced to shave off a slice of bread, and load your sandwich with extra veggies instead of extra meat and cheese.