Top 10 Sources of Sodium in Food

By: Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

Find out which foods contribute the most sodium to your diet and learn to be more sodium savvy.

These 10 foods dish up 40 percent of Americans’ sodium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Don’t banish them altogether, just shop smart and compare brands for the lowest sodium option.

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Bread

Bread itself isn’t exceptionally high in sodium. A slice contains anywhere from 50 to 230 milligrams. But collectively we eat so much of it that the milligrams add up.


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Deli Meats

Not only is salt added for flavor, but so are sodium-laden preservatives, such as sodium nitrate, to lock in moisture and improve color.


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Pizza

The trifecta of dough, cheese and tomato sauce make this American favorite a top source of sodium. And that’s before salty toppings like pepperoni or sausage.


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Chicken Dishes

Whether homemade, store-bought or packaged, it’s what’s added to the chicken dishes that makes them sodium-heavy. Plus, some raw chicken is "enhanced" with sodium solution for extra flavor and moisture. To avoid that, check the ingredient list.


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Soup

A single serving of canned soup can deliver upward of half your daily sodium limit. Made with salty broths, your favorite restaurant’s soup might not be a whole lot better than canned versions.


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Sandwiches and Burgers

When you combine bread with cold cuts and cheese or top a big bun with seasoned ground beef, ketchup, mustard and a pickle, sodium milligrams add up quickly.


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Cheese

Salt isn’t just added to cheese for flavor. It’s also a preservative that helps extend shelf life. How salty cheese is depends on the type. Most Swiss cheeses, for instance, are naturally low in salt and are a good choice.


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Pasta

Pasta alone is practically sodium-free. It’s the sauce that’s the culprit. Skip salting your cooking water too.


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Meat Dishes Like Meatloaf or Chili

Beef itself contains a little sodium, but the way we most often prepare it adds considerably more (think: seasoned breadcrumbs in meatloaf and canned tomatoes and canned beans in chili).


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Snack Foods Like Pretzels, Chips & Popcorn

In addition to their salty exterior, some, like pretzels and crackers, have salt added to their dough.