Why does cottage cheese have so much sodium?

Fact: Everything tastes better topped with cheese (sorry, but it’s true). However, if you’re watching your sodium intake, you may want to be careful about which delicious cheeses you add to your shopping cart.

Why does cheese contain sodium, exactly? Salt is added during cheese production to stop bacteria from growing, control moisture, improve texture, and enhance taste, explains Rene Ficek, RD, lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. “Most importantly, salt is added for safety reasons, as it acts as a natural preservative,” she says.

It’s no surprise that cheese accounts for about 8 percent of the sodium in the average American’s diet, she adds. Ounce per ounce, your average cheese packs as much sodium as a salt-filled bag of potato chips.

That being said, you don’t necessarily want to buy that cheese marked “low sodium” at the grocery store. Ficek says that, while many manufacturers offer reduced-sodium cheeses, they sometimes use artificial ingredients to make up for a lack of salty flavor.

Luckily, there are plenty of naturally lower-sodium cheeses to choose from.

1. Cottage Cheese

letterberryGetty Images

Paired with poached eggs and whole-wheat toast, cottage cheese has become the de-facto way to dress up a healthy breakfast. However, regular cottage cheese might be high in sodium, so opt for the no-salt-added varieties, which Roussell says generally don’t contain any more preservatives than salt-added cottage cheese

Per serving: 81 calories, 1 g fat (1 g saturated), 3 g carbs, 15 mg sodium, 3 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 14 g protein

How to eat it: Almond Berry Mini Cheesecake Smoothies

Cotter Crunch

Not sold on the texture of cottage cheese curds? Blend ‘em up with delicious berries and almonds for a sweet and healthy treat.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 165 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated), 17 g carbs, 176 mg sodium, 10 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein

2. Ricotta

vikifGetty Images

From lasagna to manicotti, this neutral cheese is light and airy to enough to offset the heartiness of many Italian dishes. Because it is consumed fresh, and has a high moisture content, ricotta doesn’t require salt for preservation or moisture-reduction. “It’s also not necessary for flavor, since the other ingredients in a dish with ricotta usually provide the flavor,” he says.

Per serving: 171 calories, 10 g fat (6 g saturated), 6 g carbs, 123 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 14 g protein

How to eat it: Mason Jar Zucchini Lasagna

Food Faith Fitness

This convenient, light lunch is relatively low in sodium—even though it features three different types of cheese.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 251 calories, 1 g fat (6 g saturated), 12 g carbs, 495 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 30 g protein

3. Cream cheese

Basilios1Getty Images

Bagels and cream cheese are a pretty delicious way to start the day—and it turns out this spread is pretty low-sodium, too. “Cream cheese is a high-moisture cheese that is distributed, refrigerated, and eaten fresh,” says Roussell. “Thus, salt is not necessary to remove moisture from the curd, and it is not necessary to preserve the cheese through the distribution system.”

Per serving: 31 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 48 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein

How to eat it: Berries & Basil Cream Cheese Toast

Skinny Ms

Your morning toast won’t know what hit it when you top it with the surprisingly delicious blend of berries, honey, lemon, and herbs.

Per serving: 143 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated), 11 g carbs, 131 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein

4. Parmesan

vikifGetty Images

Like cream cheese, your Parmesan serving atop a bowl of pasta is usually relegated to a few grated spoonfuls, so you’re ultimately not taking in as much sodium as you would other hard cheeses. But ounce for ounce, it’s not necessarily low in sodium. “The FDA serving for Parmesan is five grams, and in comparison, the serving size for most cheeses is 30 grams and with about 190 mg of sodium,” says Roussell. “The serving size is small since most people only use Parmesan as a flavor ingredient and not as part of a meal.”

Per serving: 40 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 121 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 4 g protein

How to eat it: Easy Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Skinny Ms

Pop ‘em in your mouth like chips or serve them as a side dish—either way, this recipe is the perfect way to get you to eat that vegetable.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 136 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated), 10 g carbs, 296 mg sodium, 3 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 6 g protein

5. Fresh Mozzarella

svariophotoGetty Images

Margherita pizza and bruschetta lovers, unite. The key here is to opt for fresh mozzarella—the type you’d see in Italy—since it’s a high-moisture, fresh cheese that does not require the use of salt to remove moisture or facilitate aging, according to Roussell.

“What Americans typically consider mozzarella is often sold in shreds for pizza, and is a firmer cheese than the Italian variety,” he says. “American mozzarella has a lower moisture composition and a longer shelf-life. Salt is necessary to remove moisture, preserve the cheese texture, and provide a component of the flavor.”

Per serving: 85 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 138 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 6 g protein

How to eat it: Grilled Veggie Towers With Mozzarella

Skinny Taste

For all those times you ordered the vegetarian menu at a wedding, and wished you could recreate that mouth-watering appetizer at home.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 194 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated), 17 g carbs, 234 mg sodium, 4 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 9 g protein

6. Swiss

HandmadePicturesGetty Images

The holiest of the cheeses is traditionally low in sodium. “The manufacturing process is slower, which allows the moisture to be removed with lower salt addition,” says Roussell. Plus, it contains naturally present propionic acid (a short-chain saturated fatty acid) that aids in its preservation during aging, according to the NIH.

Per serving: 50 calories, 1 g fat (1 g saturated), 1 g carbs, 56 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 8 g protein

How to eat it: Asparagus and Swiss Cheese Frittata

Skinny Taste

Make a big batch for breakfast and take it to work for lunch the next day.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 226 calories, 11 g fat (6 g saturated), 13 g carbs, 276 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 21 g protein

7. Monterey Jack

MSPhotographicGetty Images

There’s something about Monterey Jack that pairs perfectly with Mexican cuisine, and I’m not complaining. While it still contains a decent amount of sodium, Roussell says that compared to cheddar, “Jack has a high moisture and is typically aged for a much shorter time, reducing the need for salt. In addition, some Jack cheeses have peppers added, which mask the blandness that can arise in low-sodium products.”

Per serving: 53 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 0 g carbs, 133 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 5 g protein

How to eat it: Turkey Burger with Avocado Relish

Skinny Ms

Your summer BBQ just got a lot more interesting with homemade patties on whole-grain buns and the cheesiest, creamiest toppings you could ever want.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 352 calories, 17 g fat (5 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 435 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 23 g protein

Speaking of dairy…watch Aja Naomi King taste test ALL the high-protein ice creams:

Cheeses to avoid

While high-sodium cheeses are perfectly fine in moderation, you should steer clear of them if your doctor has put you on a low-sodium diet. In a 2014 study from BJM Open, researchers examined 612 samples of 23 types of cheese and ranked them.

The five saltiest:

  1. Halloumi (approx 330 mg sodium/serving)
  2. Imported blue cheese (approx 325 mg sodium/serving)
  3. Feta (approx 323 mg sodium/serving)
  4. Processed cheeses (like string cheese) (approx 200-300 mg/serving)
  5. Edam (approx 276 mg sodium/serving)

So how salty is salty? Well, it turns out, halloumi, blue, and feta pack more salt than seawater! So yeah, if you’re looking to keep the sodium down, stick to one of the low-sodium cheeses above.

Marissa Miller Marissa Miller has spent a decade editing and reporting on women’s health issues from an intersectional lens with a focus on peer-reviewed nutrition, fitness trends, mental health, skincare, reproductive rights and beyond.

12 Foods that Have Crazy High Levels of Salt

Share On

The recommended daily value (DV) for salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl), is around 2300 milligrams.

But, because of the huge amounts of sodium found in the foods we eat – even ones we wouldn’t expect to be so terribly high – we often get far more than 2300 mg in a day, sometimes even over the course of a single meal! On average, most of us consume around 3300 mg a day – well above the recommended DV.

If you’re working out regularly, that’s actually not a horrible intake. You lose a fair amount of sodium through sweat, so having a bit extra is helpful.

But, if you’re sedentary, you generally want to stick to the normal guidelines.

Many of us also consume far, far more than that.

So if you want to know more foods to watch out for, or which foods to wise up and find low-sodium alternatives for, I’m here to help.

None of these foods are entirely bad for you, and you don’t have to cut them out entirely. But, keep an eye on their nutrition labels if you’re trying to watch your sodium intake.


The whole grains used in a lot of breads are naturally low in salt, but lots of salt ends up being added in the bread creation process to enhance the flavor.

A single slice of bread can contain anywhere from 100 to 170 milligrams of sodium, meaning you’re getting around 7% of your daily intake from a single slice of bread.

Cold Cuts

While deli meat can be a great source of protein and making them into a sandwich can be a quick and easy meal, those little slices of ham, bologna, or turkey breast are packed with sodium.

And it isn’t only for flavoring. Sodium nitrate is added to fight off bacteria, provide color and texture, and to mask unsavory flavors.

Making a sandwich out of the stuff can lead to more than half of your sodium DV, as 3 slices of turkey breast contain around 1,050 milligrams. With two slices of bread and whatever condiments you choose, you’re eating a particularly salty meal.

Pre-Packaged Foods

With our lives as busy as they are these days, a TV dinner we can pop in the microwave for a few minutes and serve immediately sounds pretty tempting. Sadly, they pack a frightening amount of salt.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found these convenience meals exceeded federal guidelines on sodium content more than 70% of the time.

Broke college students beware. Foods like ramen noodles, when prepared with the included seasoning packets, can contain up to 1,820 mg of sodium in a single serving. So think twice before you double up.

Veggie Burgers

Vegetarian options may be healthier in a lot of ways – if you eat veggies, but unfortunately, when turning to the packaged stuff it’s usually made of heavily processed ingredients.

Aside from their other questionable ingredients, veggie burgers are just as crazy salty as anything else on this list. Each average veggie patty has between 300 and 400 mg of sodium. Luckily, it’s possible to find healthier, low-sodium veggie burger options, too.


Canned soups or what you find in a restaurant might seem like the low calorie option, but they can usually contain up to half your DV of sodium in a serving.

For instance, a can of Campbell’s French Onion Soup contains about 1,350 mg of sodium.

The recommended serving size is normally around a single cup, but a regular bowl of soup usually contains about 2 cups.

A can of Amy’s Minestrone, usually known for their organic options, contains 580 mg of sodium per cup. Even their low-sodium options are between 290 and 340 mg per cup.

So, while soup might be your go-to meal for an easy lunch or to make you feel better on a sick day, try to find the soup with the lowest possible amount of salt per serving.

Soy Sauce

We’re used to adding extras to our foods to enhance the flavor, some meals just don’t seem right without them. And it’s no surprise that they contain a lot of salt because of the way they taste, but the actual amount is the real shocker.

When you make a pot of rice, you’re usually thinking about including some soy sauce in your bowl. A tablespoon of soy sauce has up to 1,228 mg of sodium! That’s half of your daily value right there, and that’s not even considering the rest of your meal – let alone the rest of your day.

Cottage Cheese

When you think of cottage cheese, you probably imagine it to be one of the healthier snacks you could eat. And it’s true, cottage cheese is a great source of calcium and protein.

But a half cup of cottage cheese contains around 400 mg of sodium. A full serving of it can be nearly a third of your sodium DV.

So if you’re a fan of the lumpy cheese, search for the no-salt-added variety.

Breakfast Cereal

High fiber breakfast cereals can have anywhere from 180 mg to 300 mg per serving.

Check the labels carefully on the cereals you choose, even those that claim to be beneficial for heart health, as they might contain way more sodium than expected. Shredded wheat or oatmeal is always a strong option for low-sodium content.

Restaurant Food

Pretty much every meal you can order from a restaurant contains an extreme amount of sodium. Recent research by the Center for Science in the Public Interest revealed that nearly 85% of the adult options found in a selection of popular restaurant chains exceeded the DV for salt.

A lot of the reason why restaurant food often tastes better than what you could prepare at home is because of its additional salt content. So next time you consider going out, cook at home instead – or try and find a low-sodium option in the menu.


A single slice of cheese pizza contains more than a quarter of your recommended dietary allowance of sodium.

Odds are, the toppings are pretty heavily salted as well. And who really stops at just one slice?

It’s tough to limit salt in a pizza, though, so try and limit your intake to the very odd ‘special’ occasion.

Spaghetti Sauce

A single cup of the tomato based sauce contains up to 1,200 mg of sodium!

That’s why it’s highly recommended that you make your own sauce when eating spaghetti – just use fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil. Mix in some fresh veggies as well to give yourself an even healthier dish, and avoid all that salt.

Processed Cheese

You remember that canned Kraft Cheez Whiz kids love so much?

Two tablespoons of it, the recommended serving, contains 597 mg of sodium.

So if you’re trying to live healthier, be careful about enjoying too much processed cheese.

Without ever having to subscribe to any crazy diet plans, you can reduce the amount of sodium in your diet by paying attention to nutrition labels, particularly to serving sizes.

What’s your take on these high salt foods? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Readers’ Ratings

5/5 (5)

Your Rating?

Guidelines for a Low Sodium Diet

General Guidelines for Cutting Down on Salt

  • Eliminate salty foods from your diet and reduce the amount of salt used in cooking. Sea salt is no better than regular salt.
  • Choose low sodium foods. Many salt-free or reduced salt products are available. When reading food labels, low sodium is defined as 140 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Salt substitutes are sometimes made from potassium, so read the label. If you are on a low potassium diet, then check with your doctor before using those salt substitutes.
  • Be creative and season your foods with spices, herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper. Remove the salt shaker from the table.
  • Read ingredient labels to identify foods high in sodium. Items with 400 mg or more of sodium are high in sodium. High sodium food additives include salt, brine, or other items that say sodium, such as monosodium glutamate.
  • Eat more home-cooked meals. Foods cooked from scratch are naturally lower in sodium than most instant and boxed mixes.
  • Don’t use softened water for cooking and drinking since it contains added salt.
  • Avoid medications which contain sodium such as Alka Seltzer and Bromo Seltzer.
  • For more information; food composition books are available which tell how much sodium is in food. Online sources such as www.calorieking.com also list amounts.

Meats, Poultry, Fish, Legumes, Eggs and Nuts

High-Sodium Foods

  • Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar and anchovies
  • Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza
  • Canned entrees, such as ravioli, spam and chili
  • Salted nuts
  • Beans canned with salt added

Low-Sodium Alternatives

  • Any fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Low-sodium peanut butter
  • Dry peas and beans (not canned)
  • Low-sodium canned fish
  • Drained, water or oil packed canned fish or poultry

Dairy Products

  • Buttermilk
  • Regular and processed cheese, cheese spreads and sauces
  • Cottage cheese
  • Milk, yogurt, ice cream and ice milk
  • Low-sodium cheeses, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella

Breads, Grains and Cereals

  • Bread and rolls with salted tops
  • Quick breads, self-rising flour, biscuit, pancake and waffle mixes
  • Pizza, croutons and salted crackers
  • Prepackaged, processed mixes for potatoes, rice, pasta and stuffing
  • Breads, bagels and rolls without salted tops
  • Muffins and most ready-to-eat cereals
  • All rice and pasta, but do not to add salt when cooking
  • Low-sodium corn and flour tortillas and noodles
  • Low-sodium crackers and breadsticks
  • Unsalted popcorn, chips and pretzels

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Regular canned vegetables and vegetable juices
  • Olives, pickles, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables
  • Vegetables made with ham, bacon or salted pork
  • Packaged mixes, such as scalloped or au gratin potatoes, frozen hash browns and Tater Tots
  • Commercially prepared pasta and tomato sauces and salsa
  • Fresh and frozen vegetables without sauces
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables, sauces and juices
  • Fresh potatoes, frozen French fries and instant mashed potatoes
  • Low-salt tomato or V-8 juice.
  • Most fresh, frozen and canned fruit
  • Dried fruits


  • Regular canned and dehydrated soup, broth and bouillon
  • Cup of noodles and seasoned ramen mixes
  • Low-sodium canned and dehydrated soups, broth and bouillon
  • Homemade soups without added salt

Fats, Desserts and Sweets

  • Soy sauce, seasoning salt, other sauces and marinades
  • Bottled salad dressings, regular salad dressing with bacon bits
  • Salted butter or margarine
  • Instant pudding and cake
  • Large portions of ketchup, mustard
  • Vinegar, unsalted butter or margarine
  • Vegetable oils and low sodium sauces and salad dressings
  • Mayonnaise
  • All desserts made without salt

Not only do cold cuts have high sodium content, whole wheat bread can also be alarmingly high. (Photo, Istock.)

With more than 75 percent of adults consuming almost twice the recommended amount of sodium per day (Health Canada reported the average Canadian adult consumed 3,400 mg of sodium per day in 2012), the effort by government agencies and health care professionals to promote awareness of the health risks associated with excess salt intake is no surprise. In Canada it’s recommended that adults 14 to 50 years old consume 1,500 mg per day. At age 51 that number drops to 1,300 mg per day.

Despite this info I must confess that this flavour-enhancing seasoning is a true love of mine. I readily add it to my meals without tasting one bite. But even I, a self-admitted salt-aholic, was astonished after looking deeper into the matter as unexpected foods and products lurking with ladles of hidden sodium were uncovered. Here are the top five ways to skip sneaky sources of salt that may be sabotaging your health.

1. Medication
Yes, it’s true. This study from the University of Dundee in Scotland explains that taking the maximum daily dose of some medicines would exceed the recommended daily limits for sodium, without changing anything in your diet. The study compared 1.2 million patients taking sodium-based medication with those who took non-sodium medication, resulting in over 61,000 incidents of cardiovascular events. Overall, the researchers found that patients, “. . . taking the sodium-containing effervescent, dispersible and soluble medications had a 16-percent-increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or vascular death compared with other patients taking the non-sodium versions of those exact medications.”

Bottom line: Ask your doctor if the sodium levels in your medication will affect your health. If you are prescribed a high-sodium medication, ensure that you’re being carefully monitored during the process.

2. Cottage cheese
You’ve probably heard that cottage cheese is a healthier protein option, and the rumours are true! However, some versions of this dieters’ dream protein can contain more than 900 mg of sodium per cup. Yikes!

Bottom line: If cottage cheese is your protein of choice, opt for the low-sodium options to slash the sodium in half. You can also try swapping the curds for natural, plain zero-percent Greek yogurt for only 70 mg of sodium per ¾ cup or ricotta cheese that contains very little sodium per serving.

3. Breakfast foods
Nothing is better than morning energy! Reaching for your favourite box of cereal paired with low-fat milk and berries can offer you a fibre-rich, nutritious meal. However, many cereal brands can also lend an overdose in sodium. With a common range of 170 to 300 mg of sodium per serving, it’s worth taking a better look at each label. A 2013 study looking at Kellogg and General Mills showed these companies have made efforts to reduce sodium levels in their cereals, but there’s a long way to go before all brands jump on-board.

Not a cereal person? Don’t jump to frozen alternatives just yet. Four frozen pancakes can pack up to 740 mg of sodium, putting up some good competition for home fries.

Bottom line: If you can’t get out of the cereal habit look for low-sodium options such as shredded wheat brands or plain oats. Add some high-antioxidant fruit such as blueberries with low-fat milk to reap great additional benefits and keep your insulin levels low.

4. Sports drinks
You’ve probably heard that sports drinks can pump unnecessary amounts of sugar into your bloodstream, but that’s not the only ingredient that overwhelms our bodies. When we sweat our bodies naturally get dehydrated by losing electrolytes (salt). This explains the large portions of fuel professional athletes guzzle during a game — it quickly replenishes their fluids to give them more energy. Unfortunately, shopping for shoes doesn’t add up to the same expenditure for us everyday people. Most of us don’t even sweat enough during a half-hour workout to justify these high-sugar, high-salt drinks.

Bottom line: If your body doesn’t need to replenish its electrolyte count, you’re consuming additional calories and close to 450 mg of sodium per litre. Try to rehydrate your body with water throughout the day to keep your body quenched.

5. Vegetable juice
Why eat your vegetables, when you could drink them, right? Before you swear off broccoli forever, check the label before you chug. One-hundred-percent vegetable juices can still contain upwards of 500 mg of sodium, making any of the benefits not worth the liquid option. This 2013 study proves that salt levels in food are higher than ever, so it is up to us to make the smart decision.

Bottom line: Believe it or not, raw vegetables contain sodium too. The good news is, it’s not a harmful amount, so you can always count on the real deal to be the healthiest option. The benefit of pressing your own juice means absorbing all the nutrients, with no added chemicals like potassium chloride. If vegetable juice is the only option, grab the low-sodium version.

6. Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat bread is a staple for many health-conscious people because its high fibre, helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Whether you’re making toast, sandwiches or getting crafty with croutons, its benefits trump the white stuff. Unfortunately, sodium is finding its way into a lot of whole wheat bread brands in amounts that average 240 to 400 mg per slice. If your serving usually contains two slices, the sodium can add up quickly.

Bottom line: Take the extra time to read labels, and aim for 100 percent whole wheat breads that contain 170 mg of sodium or less per slice. This will allow your body to benefit from the nutrition while keeping your sodium levels down. As a tip, check to make sure whole wheat flour or whole grain is the first ingredient on the nutrition label, and other ingredients such as sugar or salt aren’t sneaking in.

Not feeling so hot? Here are some signs that you’ve had too much sodium:

1. Bloating
Excessive salt can cause uncomfortable bloating. When the body is retaining salt it tries to break it down by holding onto water. The most efficient way to solve this problem is to drink even more water! This will help flush out the salt as fast as possible, which will help your belly and stress go down.

2. Thirst
One of the largest signs of high sodium levels is chronic dehydration in the body. Excessive sweating in combination with small fluid intake will lead to dehydration very quickly, which can lead to larger issues. The thirst you’re feeling represents your body trying to balance your sodium and fluids in the body.

3. Dizziness
Changes in your blood pressure will occur when high levels of sodium are lurking in your body. This is especially obvious when you stand up and feel dizzy or experience “blacking out.” Continue to take it easy, and pound the H20.

4. Gastrointestinal symptoms
When sodium levels increase, you may experience some uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t react well to imbalanced fluids resulting in nausea, vomiting and severe sweating. The more dehydrated your body gets, the greater the chances of this happening. To ensure you stay well hydrated, drink eight to 10 glasses of water per day, even when you don’t feel thirsty.

Natasha Turner, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Marilyn Denis Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, .

It’s the new year, and you know what that means: no more excuses. It’s easier than ever to get back on track with our new Do Diet ebook. Our dietitian-approved meal plan, great weight-loss tips and easy-to-do-anywhere workouts will help you drop a dress size in just a few short weeks and get you swimsuit ready by spring.

Available on the iBookstore, Kobo and Amazon.

Researchers analyzed the salt in 2,000 types of bread in 32 countries. Here’s what they found.

What do you think has more salt: a slice of bread or a pack of potato chips?

It depends, but in some cases, the answer may surprise you.

Bread, it turns out, is the top contributor of dietary sodium in the US and many other countries around the world. And a big new analysis from the World Action on Salt and Health, based at Queen Mary University of London, helps us understand why.

For the report, a global team of researchers analyzed the salt content in 2,000 breads sold in 32 countries and regions. More than a third of the loaves exceeded the maximum salt target for bread set out by the UK: 1.13g of salt per 100g, or the equivalent of half a teaspoon of salt for about two slices of bread.

The US has no official target, but voluntary draft Food and Drug Administration guidance suggests manufacturers should aim for about the same levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about nine in 10 kids and adults in the US exceed the daily limits for sodium consumption (2.3g, or one teaspoon’s worth).

Some of the products analyzed in the report — like the rosemary focaccia from Ace Bakery in Canada — were “saltier than seawater.” That loaf had more than a teaspoon’s worth of salt per 100g (or about two slices), exceeding the recommended daily sodium intake. A popular product from South Africa, Golden Crust’s toaster bread, had the most salt per serving among all white breads in the survey: 2.46g per 250g portion. That’s “more salt than four portions of McDonald’s fries,” the report stated.

Breads from the US didn’t fare much better. Among the saltiest: Pepperidge Farm’s Hearty Sliced white bread, which contained 1.4g salt per 100g or two slices. That means every slice, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has pointed out, carries as much sodium as a small bag of potato chips. Even Whole Food’s white sandwich bread rivaled a bag of potato chips, with 1.37g salt per 100g.

Overall, the researchers discovered flatbreads and whole-wheat breads tended to be saltier than other types, and mixed-grain breads had the lowest average salt content. (You can see more details about your favorite breads, and how they rank, here.) Bakers put sodium in packaged breads because it boosts the flavor and acts as a preservative.

“Bread is an essential staple food in many countries but is still a key source of salt in our diets due to the frequency with which we eat bread,” said Mhairi Brown, a nutritionist at World Action on Salt and Health, in a statement. “Globally we must do more to reduce salt intake, and a simple way to do this is to lower salt in our staple foods.”

How to start cutting your salt intake now

The major reason salt is concerning for health is that too much of it can increase blood pressure, which can in turn increase risk for a heart disease and stroke.

To be sure, salt isn’t the only risk factor for high blood pressure. Genetics, exercise, bodyweight, alcohol consumption, stress, age, and overall diet play a role as well. And some people may be more sensitive to salt and its health effects than others. But researchers generally agree most people should aim to eat no more than one teaspoon per day. (For more detail, read here).

If you’re trying to cut back, you definitely want to look beyond the salt shaker. About 80 percent of the sodium Americans eat comes from salt that’s added to some of our most popular foods during processing, like store-bought bread, frozen pizza, and cold cuts. Avoiding these kinds of prepackaged foods and restaurant meals wherever possible will help reduce your sodium intake.

When you eat foods that you prepare yourself, you shouldn’t have to worry about sodium. As Norman Kaplan, a blood pressure researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, has told me, “If it’s fresh, you don’t have to worry about the sodium. The fact that nothing in nature is high in salt should tell people something.”

Of course, cooking fresh foods at home is not always possible at a time when many of us rely on quick, ready-made foods to get by. That’s why many public health officials continue to call on governments and industry to find ways of cutting salt during food processing.

The FDA is currently working to advance voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry, asking the food industry to commit to cutting sodium levels in packaged foods.

Until that happens, don’t forget to pay attention to the sodium in your bread. The new report is a reminder that not all breads are created equal, and the biggest salt contributor to the diet is probably lurking next to your butter knife.

How much sodium is in that bread?

Your daily bread could be sabotaging your healthy, low-salt eating habits. Just two slices of some brands can provide more than a third of your recommended maximum intake of salt for the day.

If you’ve been mindful of adding salt sparingly to your food, you might be surprised to discover bread is one of the biggest contributors to your daily salt intake. Aside from adding to its taste, salt is integral to the rising process in baking.

Yet, just one teaspoon of salt (2300mg of sodium) is the recommended upper limit (UL) we should consume in a day, as it can contribute to high blood pressure and risk of stroke. The average Australian is getting one and a half times that.

So, a large daily helping of bread such as thick, door-stop slices with your breakfast, a wrap for lunch and a bread roll with dinner, may take you close to your daily limit – and that’s before you put anything on it.

As you’ll see from our chart, the amount of sodium found in different breads varies widely.

For your reference we’ve worked out how much sodium you’ll add to your day if you have two slices (or one roll or wrap). See how your favourite daily bread stacks up.

Tip Top Sunblest soft white thick loaf
2 slices = 274mg sodium
= 12% UL

Aldi Baker’s Life Turkish bread roll
1 bun = 777mg sodium
= 34% UL

Wonder White + vitamins and minerals sandwich
2 slices = 312mg sodium
= 14% UL

Lawson’s Stonemill wholemeal
2 slices = 467mg sodium
= 20% UL

Molenberg original 12 grains & seeds
2 slices = 296mg sodium
= 13% UL

Burgen soy-lin for women’s wellbeing
2 slices = 332mg sodium
= 14% UL

Country Life Bakery low-GI white
2 slices = 312mg sodium
= 14% UL

Bazaar white pita pockets
1 pocket = 335mg sodium
= 15% UL

Helga’s mixed grain wraps
1 wrap = 255mg sodium
= 11% UL

Baker’s Delight authentic sourdough roll
1 roll = 913mg sodium
= 40% UL

Sodium… not in mushrooms

Did you know that Canadian adults consume an average of 3,092 mg of sodium daily. That is more than double the 1,500 mg recommendation by Health Canada. In fact, it exceeds the tolerable upper intake level of 2,300 mg.

That is quite an amazing statistic! Personally, I make conscience decisions throughout the day to cut back on my sodium intake, because the truth of the matter is, sodium is in almost everything. From cereals to salad dressings, to pre-packaged microwaveable lunches and even your pizza, it’s there and in surprising high levels.

Cutting sodium might not be as simple as not putting salt in your food. Reading the Nutrition Facts Panel on your food before you purchase can also help cut back. Look for foods that have a “Low Sodium label” or are under 5% DV per serving.

Eating more fresh fruits & veggie on regular basis can also help cut out sodium. Including fresh mushrooms is a quick & healthy way to make the cut.

Fresh Mushrooms and Sodium
A 100g serving of fresh Canadian white button mushrooms contain only 4 mg of sodium. In addition, a serving of fresh mushrooms provides 8% of your daily requirement of potassium. Foods high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Also, mushrooms contain Umami, which helps to boost the flavours of your food, meaning less salt is required to taste.

Mushrooms make a difference:

  • Substitute ½ cup of white mushrooms for ½ cup of cheddar cheese in your omelette or scrambled eggs. Save 349 mg sodium.
  • Substitute 1 cup of grilled portabella mushrooms for sausage in pasta. Save 632 mg sodium.
  • Try “white buttons and dip” instead of “corn chips and dip.” Save 552 mg sodium.

To learn more about cutting sodium from your diet visit Sodium101.ca.

What are you doing to watch your sodium intake?
{photo via ettina}

Although mushrooms are classified as vegetables, technically they are not plants but part of the kingdom called fungi. However, they share some characteristics with plants and, as you will find out, even with animals! Mushrooms are low in calories, have virtually no fat and no cholesterol, and are very low in sodium. Three ounces of raw mushrooms, about 1 cup, provide 1 to 2 grams of protein. Mushrooms contain an indigestible carbohydrate called chitin that contributes “bulk” to our diet. Chitin is also found in shrimp and crab shells but not in plants. Mushrooms provide the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, which are especially important for people who don’t eat meat. Most mushrooms are also a good source of selenium and potassium.
Surprisingly, mushrooms also provide a small amount of vitamin D and can increase their vitamin D content when they are exposed to light, just like our skin makes vitamin D from sunlight. No other “vegetable” can to do that! Look for high vitamin D mushrooms in your grocery store.
Best of all, mushrooms are delicious. Sauté them with onions, add them to casseroles, stuff them or enjoy a grilled portabella burger. Canned mushrooms, especially if they are marinated, make a great salad topping. You are probably familiar with white mushrooms, brown buttons called crimini and their mature stage called portabellas. But don’t be in the dark about oyster, shiitake, maitake, and enoki mushrooms. Try these in place of white mushrooms in your recipes. You can also reconstitute dried porcini or chanterelles in hot water and add to soups and stuffings for a wonderful flavor boost.
If you are watching your weight, substitute mushrooms for some of the meat in a recipe. You’ll reduce calories and fat but the meal will be just as satisfying.
Try this easy and flavorful mushroom recipe:

Marinated Mushrooms

Makes 4, 1/4-cup servings

Prep time: 10 minutes + refrigeration

Cook time: 5 minutes

  • 8 oz button mushrooms or other varieties
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 T olive or canola oil
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Clean mushrooms by brushing off particles, then rinse quickly. Slice mushrooms into quarters. In a medium skillet, heat the 1 teaspoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until slightly soft but not limp.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add the sautéed mushrooms and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving, if desired.
Serve on French bread slices as an appetizer. May also be served as a topping for garden salads or as a side dish or garnish for meats.

Nutrition information per serving: 60 Calories, 5 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 0 mg Cholesterol, 4 g Carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g Protein, 135 mg Sodium.

Sylvia B. Emberger, RD, LDN Corporate Nutritionist Giant Food Stores, LLC Fruit & Vegetable Recipes Video Center: Selection, Storage, and Preparation of Fruits & Vegetables.

When I wrote that ”even a teaspoonful of basil contains one milligram of sodium,” I was taken to task by a member of the American Spice Trade Association. He informed me that their research shows that a teaspoon of basil contains only a few tenths of a milligram.

I should point out here that I try to limit my daily intake of sodium (after all, it is the sodium in salt that is the villain and not salt per se) to two grams a day, which amount to 2,000 milligrams. Whether in the cooking of mushrooms or other dishes, the judicious uses of spices looms large. I have always contended that the best spices to enliven a low-sodium diet are chili powder and curry powder. I almost invariably add a touch of chili powder to tomato sauces. And almost any dish prepared with curry powder can stand on its own without salt. Read the fine print on the labels of chili containers carefully, however, for it turns out that some chili brands contain salt while others do not.

As a result of prodding by the spice group, I perused my sodium table to determine the sodium content of a score and more spices. It is impressive. Per teaspoon, there are only two-tenths of a milligram in black pepper, pure chili powder and nutmeg. The only spices that contain one milligram (a most negligible amount) of sodium are allspice, curry powder, fennel, mace, marjoram, tarragon and thyme. Only four exceed two milligrams of sodium, and they are celery seed, cloves, parsley flakes and cumin. The sodium content in all of these is, in my own diet, highly insignificant.

Almost all the mushroom recipes that have been created in my kitchen by Pierre Franey and myself employ numerous spices. One of the best of the recipes is stuffed mushrooms, which contain thyme, bay leaf and parsley; a fine mushroom and meat loaf containing dill and nutmeg; a mushroom and green pepper salad with scallions and a dish of veal scaloppine with mushrooms bordelaise with parsley. In almost all my low-sodium cookery I use a generous grinding of black pepper.

One of the most interesting dishes here was inspired by Marcella Hazan, the cookbook author and teacher. In one of her dishes, she uses soaked imported Italian boletus mushrooms, which are widely available in specialty shops in this country. These mushrooms are sauteed in oil and fresh mushrooms are added. The imported mushrooms are not only wild but also wildly expensive.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *