These “Healthy” Foods Are Actually High In Sodium

According to the CDC, 90% of Americans consume too much sodium daily. Obviously, potato chips and table salt contain sodium, but the ingredient also sneaks into “healthy” foods. For instance, did you know that cottage cheese is high in sodium? What about salad dressings and frozen fish? If you’re eating these foods, you might be getting more than your recommended 2,300 mg of salt.

Yes, Cottage Cheese Is Salty

Although cottage cheese is healthy, it also has a higher sodium content than other cheeses. Half a cup of cottage cheese has 364 mg of salt, or around 819 mg per cup. According to a 2017 Korean study, the salt additives preserve texture and enhance flavor. As such, you won’t find low-salt varieties.

A bowl of cottage cheese sits on top of another bowl.

If you’re closely monitoring salt content, you can eat cottage cheese sparingly. Or, you can rinse the cheese under running water for three minutes. This might reduce sodium by up to 63%, according to The Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Miso Soup Might Harm Blood Pressure

Miso soup is prized for its many nutrients and benefits for the digestive tract. But for people who are salt-weary, it is not so healthy. In 2003, a study in the journal Circulation found that peoples’ blood pressure increases when they frequently eat miso. Why? Because of the sodium.

A white bowl with a spoon contains miso soup.
Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

On average, most bowls of miso contain around 1,000 mg of salt (or one gram). This high amount has a negative effect on heart rate and blood pressure, despite the dish’s many benefits. If you love miso, you might want to find a “reduced salt” option.

Certain Salad Dressings Are Not Healthy

Although salads are healthy, many store-bought dressings are not. Several dressings have a surprisingly high salt content. One tablespoon of French dressing has 134 mg of salt, and the same amount of Thousand Island dressing contains 138 mg.

Salad dressing drips from a spoon into a bowl.
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Registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin recommends avoiding low-fat and fat-free dressings. These replace fat with more sodium and sugar. Plus, many vegetable oils such as olive and avocado provide healthy fats that your body needs. Instead of buying salad dressing, create your own with olive oil, vinaigrette, lemon, and herbs.

Why Packaged Shrimp Has A Surprising Amount Of Salt

While fresh shrimp contains no added sodium, packaged shrimp does. Shrimp can easily become too moist, so manufacturers add sodium tripolyphosphate to minimize water during thawing, according to the Journal of Food Science.

Bags of frozen shrimp are on sale at a grocery store.
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Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

The USDA claims that a three-ounce serving of frozen shrimp contains 800 mg of sodium, about 35% of your recommended daily intake. If you buy breaded shrimp, that’s even more salt! Watch out for additives in frozen food, as that is where many people receive more sodium than they realize.

The Greatest Source Of Sodium: Bread

According to the CDC, bread is the number one salt contributor to the American diet. Although many people don’t expect salt to be in bread, manufacturers add it to preserve taste and help the grains last longer. Biscuits are some of the worst, with a single roll giving you 528 mg of sodium.

Dried flour gets sprinkled onto freshly-baked bread.
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Helena Yankovska/Unsplash

If you’re trying to cut down on salt, then you should buy low-sodium bread, says registered dietitian Elizabeth Mulligan. She finds bread with less than 5% of your recommended salt intake, such as Ezekiel and sodium-free whole wheat bread.

Some Processed Cheeses Are Hardly Cheese

Cheese is healthy, right? Yes, but processed cheeses have more sodium than you might realize. Processed cheese, such as American cheese, is preserved with emulsifying salts such as phosphate and sodium. According to Current Research in Dairy Sciences, these are added to make the cheese smooth and last longer.

Packages of stacked American cheese slices are wrapped in plastic and have a nutrition label.
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Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A single ounce of American cheese contains 377 mg of sodium, which is 16% of your daily recommended dose. On top of that, the FDA reports that processed cheese contains less than 51% cheese. They’re hardly even dairy!

How You Can Substitute Canned Vegetables

Canned vegetables are a convenient way to store greens, but they have far more salt than fresh vegetables. Sodium is added to canned foods in order to preserve the flavor for a long time. Half a cup of canned green beans supplies 200 mg of salt.

Green beans are preserved in glass jars.

Registered dietitian Wendy Palmer told WebMD that there are much healthier options for canned vegetables. For instance, frozen vegetables have as much nutritional value as fresh ones and little sodium. Although canned vegetables do not have as much salt as other foods, they are still unnecessary.

Even “Healthy” Frozen Dinners Are Salty

Even if you buy a healthy, low-calorie frozen dinner, you’ll still consume a lot of sodium. The Daily Meal reported that some of the least healthy frozen dinners can have over 2,000 mg of sodium! Meanwhile, “low-sodium” and “healthy” meals still have between 300 mg and 800 mg.

Frozen dinners are in the freezer isle of the grocery store.

According to the FDA, a frozen meal has to have less than 600 mg of salt per serving to classify as healthy. Even so, if you’re monitoring sodium, you might want to stay away from frozen meals in general.

Four Slices Of Bacon Increases The Risk Of Heart Disease

Like many processed meats, bacon is high in salt. It undergoes a curing process that fills it with sodium, nitrates, and other additives. A single slice gives you 137 mg. In February 2020, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine discovered that only four slices of bacon can raise your risk of heart disease.

Four slices of bacon cook in a cast iron pan.
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Dan Russo/Unsplash

You can eat bacon in moderation, but don’t over-indulge. Harvard researcher Maryam Farvid told Live Science that removing bacon from your diet is “small but meaningful.” If you want a less sodium-dense alternative, try turkey bacon.

Broth And Stock: Which Is Better?

It’s no secret that soup broths have a large amount of salt, but do you know how much? A single serving of Swanson vegetable broth contains 940 mg of sodium. And if you buy the organic variety, you still get 550 mg per serving.

A person stirs a heated pot filled with broth and vegetables.
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According to Consumer Reports, stocks tends to have less salt than broth because it does not have the added seasoning that pre-made broths do. Even then, you might want to hunt down the low-sodium varieties if you’re monitoring blood pressure or heart health.

A Single Can Of Soup Might Impact Your Blood Pressure

Canned soup is notorious for its high sodium levels. The average soup can has 800 mg of sodium, while healthier, “low sodium” options contain between 300 and 500 mg. The American Heart Association says that one soup can might add up to one-third of your daily recommended salt intake.

Grocery store shelves are lined with canned soups.
Paul Thomas/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Paul Thomas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canned soup also has another unhealthy ingredient: BPA. In 2016, researchers found more BPA in canned soups than in canned fruits and vegetables. BPA raises the risk of hypertension and heart disease just as salt does.

Pretzels Are Not Healthier Than Chips

To cut down on fried foods, some people replace potato chips with pretzels. While pretzels are not fried, they have as much salt as many chips do. A single cup of pretzels has around 1,266 mg of sodium.

Large pretzels lie on a table with salt chunks.
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Piret Ilver/Unsplash

But that’s not all. According to registered dietitian Kate Patton, most pretzels are made with refined flour, meaning that they have very little fiber or nutrients. Popcorn has much more vitamins and fiber than pretzels do. For more protein, you’ll have some luck with nuts, seeds, and even some granola.

Tomato-Based Condiments Have The Worst Sodium Levels

According to the American Heart Association, tomato-based sauces are some of the most common sodium additions to a person’s diet. Ketchup is the main culprit; a single tablespoon contains 154 mg of salt. Canned marinara sauces might have low sodium depending on which brand you buy.

Heinz Ketchup packets sit in a dish at a restaurant.
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Although some people don’t know this, most barbecue sauce is made with ketchup. By eating two tablespoons of barbecue sauce, you’ll receive 395 mg of sodium, or 17% of your recommended daily intake. Tomato-based condiments are best consumed in moderation.

Canned Tuna Is Healthy…Unless You’re Wary Of Salt

Canned tuna supplies plenty of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is quite salty. Regular canned tuna has up to 840 mg of salt per three-ounce can. If you buy water-canned tuna, you can reduce the sodium, but even that has around 525 mg.

Cans of tuna are stacked at a supermarket.

The good news is that the amount of salt in canned tuna is decreasing. According to a 2015 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, canned tunas have far less sodium than they did ten years ago. Perhaps they’ll become even healthier with time.

How To De-Salt Canned Beans

Yes, beans are healthy; but canned beans are preserved with a high amount of sodium. Some of them go over 1,000 mg of salt per cup. Chickpeas tend to be on the less-salty end, but even they have around 400 mg in every half-cup.

A can of kidney beans is seen.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

However, you can lower the amount of sodium in canned beans. Simply drain the liquid and rinse the beans for about a minute. According to a 2011 study, this method can significantly reduce the salt content by 40% on average. That’s good news!

The Unhealthy Side Of Vegetable Juice

Vegetable juices such as V8 might seem like an easy way to get more nutrients, but they come with a price. Many include sodium additives to keep them fresh. For instance, a cup of V8 supplies 640 mg of salt; even the low-sodium variety has 140 mg.

A close-up shot shows a low sodium version of V8.
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According to registered dietitian Amy Lewis, many vegetable juices also contain a lot of sugar for flavor. And because the vegetables have been blended, they lose much of their fiber. You’re better off juicing your own vegetables instead of buying pre-made ones.

Even Tortillas Aren’t Safe From Sodium

If you were to eat tacos, much of the salt would come from an unlikely source: the tortillas. In particular, flour tortillas contain a lot of sodium to enhance the flavor and keep them shelf-stable. An eight-inch flour tortilla gives you 391 mg of sodium.

A circular basket contains freshly-baked flour tortillas.
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Fortunately, you can make tacos or other meals without flour tortillas. The American Heart Association recommends corn tortillas, which only have around 20 mg of salt. Also, you can flavor the meat with spices instead of added salt. It might even taste better!

Pickles Are Salt Bombs

Pickles are a delicious source of probiotics, but they are also salt bombs. One pickled cucumber has 785 mg of sodium, around 34% of your daily salt limit. Even “reduced sodium” varieties contain around 560 mg.

A jar of pickle slices sits next to a variety container of vegetables.
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Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash

“If you don’t have hypertension, [pickles are] an okay snack,” registered dietitian Angela Michele Tyson told Spoon University. She recommends only eating pickles as flavor-boosters, such as on burgers. If you’re looking for probiotics, plenty of other foods offer them, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kefir, and certain types of cheese.

Chicken Doesn’t Have To Be Fried To Have Sodium

Chicken does not need to be fried to have a lot of sodium. According to nutritionist Caroline West Passerrello, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, pre-made chickens tend to be “enhanced” with salt. If you buy a Costco rotisserie chicken and eat a serving the size of a deck of cards, you’ll get 460 mg of sodium.


West Passerrello advises people to look out for labels that say “may contain up to 15% salt solution.” That’s a bad sign. Always check the labels for salt, and be careful how to season these chickens.

Try To Buy Low-Sodium Lunch Meats

Lunch meats are processed and preserved to stay fresh for a long time. Because of this, they have an impressive amount of salt. Depending on the type of meat, a single slice could have around 362 mg of salt. Even “low-sodium” varieties contain around 140 mg.

A person removes sourdough bread to reveal slices of pastrami.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Registered dietitian Kelsey Hampton recommends searching for deli meats labeled “salt-free,” “sodium-free,” or “very low sodium.” Some brands such as Boar’s Head have meats with no salt added and only 55 mg of sodium. The downside? It does not last as long in the fridge.

Why Beef Jerky Has So Much Salt

Beef jerky makes a great snack for people who want low fat and carbs. But for those looking for low sodium, they might want to skip it. A single ounce of beef jerky takes up 22% of your recommended sodium limit.

A plastic container includes squares of beef jerky.

Food microbiologist Dr. Mark Harrison says that jerky also contains the preservatives nitrates and nitrites. According to him, these are added to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes food poisoning. However, there are some low-sodium jerky options for people who are salt-conscious.

Pizza (Especially American) Is The Worst

Pizza is made with a long list of salt-filled ingredients: tomato sauce, processed cheese, dough with preservatives, and sometimes red meat. A single slice can have around 760 mg of sodium, which means that three slices will add up to your entire daily salt intake.

A box opens to reveal a sliced pepperoni pizza.
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If you live in the U.S., pizza is especially bad. The U.K group World Action on Salt and Health discovered that America has some of the world’s saltiest pizza. Frozen pizzas are the worst, but in reality, all of them are sodium bombs.

Bagels Aren’t Just Carbs

Many people fear bagels for their carbs, but these pastries are also high in sodium. A plain bagel has 430 mg of salt, and flavored bagels such as everything or blueberry contain even more. On top of that, many bagels are made with refined grains that convert to sugar inside the body.

A pastry chef makes bagels as a basket of fresh everything bagels is next to him.
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Robert Alexander/Getty Images

During an interview with Eat This, Not That!, registered dietitian Toby Amidor said that bagels have three and a half times as many carbs as a slice of bread. That’s bad news for people with a history of heart disease, obesity, or hypertension.

Pork Rinds Are Not The Healthiest Snack

Pork rinds have become increasingly popular with the rise of the keto diet. However, you might want to avoid them if you’re watching sodium. One cup of dried pork rinds supplies a whopping 1,818 mg of salt.

A man eats from a bag of pork rinds.
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

That said, registered dietitian Jeff Volek says that pork rinds can make a healthy snack. They are high in protein and contain unsaturated fat, and you can buy grass-fed pork without preservatives. But you have to eat them in moderation, especially if you’re worried about blood pressure.

The Truth About Macaroni And Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a delicious comfort food, but because many boxes are filled with preservatives, they also have a lot of sodium. If you were to make Kraft Mac And Cheese and eat one cup of it, you would receive 475 mg of sodium, or 20% of your recommended daily intake.

A close-up shows cheesy noodles of macaroni and cheese.
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Joel Page/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

On a positive note, many manufacturers are lowering the amount of sodium in mac and cheese. In 2017, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that the amount of salt in preserved foods have decreased by 10% since 2010. Still, it might be healthier to cook homemade mac and cheese.

Soy Sauce Has More Salt Than Most People Think

Sure, soy sauce can many foods taste better, but many people underestimate how much salt is in this condiment. A single tablespoon provides 879 mg of sodium, and most people use more than that. Even “low-sodium” varieties have around 533 mg.

Soy sauce pours from a container into a small black bowl.
GoodEats YQR/Unsplash
GoodEats YQR/Unsplash

“The fermentation process requires a lot of salt,” explains registered dietitian Monica Auslander Moreno. Instead of relying on soy sauce, Auslander Moreno recommends flavoring your meals with wasabi, ginger, pickled vegetables, or spices. You can also swap soy sauce for liquid aminos, which have a similar flavor.

In Sandwiches, The Salt Adds Up

Sandwiches are tasty, convenient, and…salty. Because most sandwiches rely on processed meats, manufactured bread, and condiments, the sodium content quickly adds up. Including toppings such as processed cheeses and pickles, and you’ll receive almost all of your recommended daily salt intake.

A close-up shows the sides of club sandwiches.

The American Heart Association provides some advice for a low-sodium sandwich. First, buy salt-free bread. Then, search for roasted meats, which tend to have less salt than cured or cold-cut meats. Include salt-free cheeses such as Swiss and mozzarella, and go easy on the condiments.

How To Pick A Healthy Hummus

Hummus contains plenty of protein, vitamins, and healthy fats. However, some of them sneak salt into the preservatives. Commercial hummus provides 932 mg of sodium per cup, which is around 57 mg in each tablespoon. Homemade hummus contains far less.

A bowl of hummus sits on a towel.
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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller recommends checking the salt and fiber content on each container of hummus. Try to find one with less than 140 mg per serving. When in doubt, search for a hummus with fewer oils and preservatives in the ingredients list.

What To Search For While Sausage Shopping

Sausage can be a healthy source of protein if you look out for salt. Depending on the type of sausage, you might be looking at 826 mg of sodium per link. Hot dogs are just as bad; each one contains around 620 mg of salt.

Raw sausages are for sale at a supermarket.
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Giles Anderson/PA Images via Getty Images

If you want to find a healthy sausage, search for ones with high meat content, according to Wholesome Child. Look for one with around 85% meat; it will have less sodium and preservatives. For better heart health, pinpoint sausages with less than 8% saturated fat.

Instant Pudding Isn’t All Sugar

When you think of pudding, which ingredient comes to your mind? If it’s sugar, that would make sense. But many people don’t realize that pudding, especially instant pudding, is also high in salt. Half a cup of instant vanilla pudding has 350 mg of sodium, and flavored versions have even more.

A box contains dark chocolate instant pudding.
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Getty Images

Cupped puddings have less salt, but they’re still pretty high–around 139 mg in half a cup. If you’re craving something sweet, then you’ll have better luck making your own pudding. Note that chocolate flavors tend to have more sodium than vanilla.