The answer may surprise you…

If your burger is slathered in ketchup, topped with pickles and served with fries, you’re consuming a lot of salt. Most of us are accustomed to salty food with added salty condiments, and we pay little attention to the many sodium-rich foods that we eat.

You may know that eating too much sodium can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.

When trying to cut back, your instinct may be to remove the salt shaker from the table as a quick and easy solution, but that’s not where most of the sodium in your diet comes from. And it doesn’t come from the salt you use while you’re cooking, either. Surprisingly, just six percent of salt comes from the shaker, and only five percent is added to cooking.

In fact, studies show that a whopping 71% of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods and restaurant items – like that burger and fries we mentioned earlier. There’s salt in the bread, meat, condiments and toppings.

Processed foods are high in salt because it’s used in so many ways — to prevent spoilage, prohibit the growth of pathogens, improve the appearance and enhance flavour. Some processed foods may contain three or more sodium-rich ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium chloride (table salt), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium benzoate (a preservative).

If you want to cut back on salt, start by curbing your intake of high-sodium processed foods such as deli meats, pickles, ketchup, soy sauce, salad dressing, frozen meals, soups and salty snacks. Food court staples like pizza, tacos and subs are also high-sodium foods.

When you grocery shop, check ingredient lists and Nutrition Fact panels and choose items with 15% or less Daily Value of sodium. Better yet, replace some processed foods with fresh choices instead, like vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, fish and whole grains.

After you start reading the Nutrition Facts, let us know: which food surprised you by being high in sodium?

For some more tips of reducing your salt intake, check out this site.

Cara Rosenbloom

Author Cara Rosenbloom

Registered Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom is the president of Words to Eat By, a Toronto-based nutrition communications company specializing in writing, recipe development and nutrition education. Read her blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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