Health Matters

Salt Savvy: What is in Your Food?

Jun. 7, 2016

If you’re quick to add a dash (or two or three) of salt to your plate, you could be increasing your risk of heart disease. Nine out of 10 people take in more than twice the recommended amount of sodium each day and the Food and Drug Administration is urging restaurants and food manufacturers to gradually reduce the salt in their dishes and products.

salt shakerUR Medicine Cardiologist Dr. John Bisognano, who is also president of the American Society for Hypertension, says these proposed guidelines will be especially helpful for people who choose a high-sodium diet of more than 6 grams per day.

Nobody really knows how much salt is used to prepare our meal at a restaurant; we just know it tastes good. Hopefully the FDA proposal will lead to listing sodium totals, along with calories, on restaurant menus, so we can all be more aware of what we’re eating.

While restaurant labeling may help in the future, taking time to read the labels on the food you serve and eat at home will help raise your awareness of how much salt is in your diet. Some of the most common high-sodium foods are:

  • Canned soups, stews, pasta, barbecue, soy and Worcestershire sauces and gravies;
  • Condiments and seasonings, bouillon, meat tenderizer, taco mixes;
  • Deli meats and cheeses, sausages, items that are cured, smoked or canned
  • Frozen meals and vegetables with sauces;
  • Mixes for baking, pancakes, pudding, biscuits;
  • Packaged starchy foods like seasoned pasta, rice, stuffing or potato mixes and instant meals to which you add water;
  • Snacks such as salted chips, popcorn, pretzels, pork rinds and crackers;
  • Seasonings with “salt” in the name, he recommends choosing garlic or onion powder over garlic or onion salt; and
  • Packaged baked goods, breads and cereals.

When you know more about the salt in your food, you can make better choices. If you decide to have a high-sodium meal for lunch, opt for something with less salt for dinner. It’s important to be vigilant but realistic.

John Bisognano, MD

John D. Bisognano, M.D., Ph.D., cares for patients with all types of acute cardiovascular disease, including advanced heart failure as director of the UR Medicine Heart and Vascular Comprehensive Hypertension Center. He is involved in research aimed at finding new treatments for people with cardiovascular disease.