Report Finds Many Low Fat Foods Are High In Salt

December 3, 2008

(ChattahBox) — A report originally published online Monday by Consumer Reports magazine says there can be plenty of sodium — commonly known as salt — in foods that seem to be health-friendly, and shoppers should know that lower-fat foods can have much more sodium than full-fat products.

The report has revealed that even if you never touch a salt shaker and steer clear of potato chips and french fries, you are probably eating more salt than you think, because though the salt may not be visible, it may be packed into foods in extremely high levels.

37 food products were analyzed as part of the report, with some startling discoveries of sodium in unexpected places, including some products that don’t even taste salty. Among the least expected findings:

  • A 1/2-cup serving of a low-fat cottage cheese had twice as much sodium (360 milligrams) as a 1-ounce serving of regular potato chips (180 milligrams).
  • A Premium Caesar Salad with grilled chicken from McDonald’s had more than twice the salt (890 milligrams) as a large order of McDonald’s fries (350 milligrams). And that’s without the dressing.
  • A half-cup serving of Prego’s Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce had 430 milligrams of sodium, slightly less than what the USDA allows per serving in foods labeled “healthy.”
  • Breakfast foods were an unexpected source of hidden salt. A popular whole-grain bagel had 440 milligrams of sodium, a best-selling pancake mix had 200 milligrams per pancake, and raisin-bran cereals had between 230 milligrams and 350 milligrams per cup serving. A maple and brown sugar-flavored instant oatmeal had more than three times as much sodium as its original flavored version.

“Our analysis found that lower-fat products might be higher in sodium. That’s in part because when fat is taken out of full-fat foods, sodium is sometimes used to compensate for flavor,” Jamie Hirsh, associate health editor at Consumer Reports, said in a news release.

Healthy adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (the amount in one teaspoon of table salt), according to dietary guidelines. Middle-aged and older people, those with high blood pressure, and black Americans should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. But, the average American consumes 2,900 to 4,300 milligrams a day, the study authors said.

A high-sodium diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure (which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease) and also increase the risk of asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. A 50 percent reduction in Americans’ dietary sodium intake could save 150,000 lives a year, according to the American Medical Association.

“On average, Americans consume far more sodium than the recommended daily limit. Unfortunately, cutting back isn’t easy because of the high levels of sodium in the many processed and prepared foods that Americans eat on a regular basis,” Hirsh said.


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