Sodium is an essential mineral that is a common additive in many foods (1).
Even healthy foods can have high levels of sodium. It is recommended to not eat over 2300 mg of sodium per day or 1 teaspoon of table salt (2). Table salt is a common form of sodium, and one of the reasons some of these foods are high in sodium is because of added salt (3). However, the majority of sodium in Americans’ diets comes from processed foods and prepared foods in restaurants, not from the salt shaker (4).
When you eat too much sodium, the body cannot process it fully. Too much sodium increases blood pressure, and it becomes a burden on the heart (5). Eating too much sodium can also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and certain types of cancer (6), (7).
While too much sodium can be harmful, sodium is still an essential nutrient in smaller doses. Sodium is an intricate part of your body’s functioning. It is responsible for cellular and physiological function, as well as fluid balance (8). Sodium also regulates blood pressure, muscle, and nerve function, as well as the regulation of many other minerals in the body such as magnesium, calcium, and more (9). It is important to understand that sodium is an essential mineral.
The problems with sodium only typically arise when you get far too much. Even though sodium is essential for human functioning, eating too much sodium can lead to a plethora of downstream diseases and problems in the body.
Summary: Sodium is an essential nutrient for maintaining blood pressure, fluid balance, and nerve function. However, consuming too much sodium can increase many health risks. It is a common additive in many foods. Try to limit sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 mg per day.
Table of Contents
Foods High in Sodium
Check out the list below to see if you consume too much of these common high sodium foods.
Cheese is a common sodium-rich food, so it’s necessary to eat cheese in moderation.
The types of cheese that have the most sodium include blue cheese, parmesan, feta, and Romano. Lower sodium cheese includes swiss cheese and fresh mozzarella (10). Cheese includes many beneficial nutrients, like calcium, protein, vitamin A, B12, and more (11). Butconsuming too much cheese will increase your sodium levels.
There is some evidence that cheese may also be slightly addictive (12). That’s because it’s very high in casein, and casein breaks down in the body into casomorphins, which can act like dopamine in the brain, the pleasure neurotransmitter (13). If food can truly be addictive remains controversial, and more research is needed to understand this (14).
Summary: Many types of cheese can be high in sodium. However, cheese contains many beneficial nutrients, including calcium, protein, and vitamin B12. Make sure to keep your cheese intake in moderation. Small portions can be healthful to a balanced diet.
Just one plain slice of pizza has 640 mg of sodium. That makes up a good portion of your daily sodium intake (15).
At its core, pizza is dough, cheese, and sauce. All these ingredients contribute to the sodium content of pizza. The sodium content of pizza can also be higher with certain toppings, like ham, pepperoni or sausage. That is because they have added salt in the processing of these toppings (16).
This does not mean you have to scrap pizza from your diet altogether. Enjoy some here and there, but do not make it a regular meal.
Summary: Pizza can also be high in sodium from the cheese, sauce, dough, and sometimes additional sodium depending on what toppings are on the pizza. Enjoy pizza in moderation.
Jerky is full of tons of beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, but it is also high in sodium (17). That often because of the way jerky is processed.
Meat jerky comes in many different forms such as turkey, beef, and pork. It can be a healthy part of a balanced snack, but it is important to monitor your consumption. Because this is a processed food, it can cause many issues with excess sodium, especially if you have pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure (18).
Find the right portion sizes for you if you like to eat jerky on occasion.
Summary: Jerky is another food that has a lot of sodium added in its processing. Consume jerky in moderation if you are limiting your sodium intake.
4. Canned Soup
Why is canned soup so much higher than homemade soup? Many food manufacturers add extra sodium to their soups because it helps to preserve them and to add more flavor (20).
If you like soup but are trying to limit sodium, you can try to make soup fresh in your home so you know exactly how much sodium you are getting. Sodium is rarely ever an issue when you are cooking at home. You would have to add a whole lot of salt to overdo it, which most people are not likely to do.
Summary: Canned soup is another food that has a lot of sodium added in its processing. If you are working to limit sodium, making your own soup at home is one of many ways to reduce the sodium in your diet.
5. Baked Beans
Beans of all kinds can be extremely healthy to include in most diets. Between kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, and more, beans are high in protein, fiber, and many essential nutrients (21).
But when beans are made into baked beans, they can bring far too much sodium into your diet. The sauce used in baked beans is high in sugar and salt. Canned baked beans are some of the highest sodium beans you can get.
How can get avoid this sodium overdose? Simply buy canned beans unflavored and flavor them yourself. The healthiest way to eat beans is to buy them dried or canned and rinse, soak, cook, and flavor them yourself (22). You can make a tasty baked beans dish with just a few simple ingredients. All you need is your favorite bean, a little molasses, honey mustard, apple cider vinegar, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. Make your baked beans fresh and have your low-sodium meal for the whole week.
Tip: Beans have many health benefits, but baked beans are the highest in sodium. However, you can make your own baked beans at home with just a few simple ingredients.
6. Deli Meats
Deli meats such as cold cuts are a type of processed meat that is high in processed additives like nitrates and salt (23).
Just one two-ounce serving of turkey breast contains around 400-600 mg of sodium. You can see how deli meats can present a problem with sodium, especially for those with heart disease or hypertension (24). Processed meat may also increase risk of colorectal cancer (25).
Try to go for lean cuts of meat instead of the processed deli meat version. If you do want to have deli meat, make sure to monitor your portions and eat it in moderation.
Summary: Deli meat is another food high in sodium due to processing. Be sure to eat deli meat in moderation.
7. Certain Snack Foods
Snacks high in sodium include pretzels, chips, snack mixes, crackers, and more (26).
This does not mean you have to cut out these snacks altogether, but there are much healthier, low-sodium choices that have extremely similar tastes.
Look into a lower-sodium snack alternative for the one you enjoy most. One example is to choose chips or pretzels that have less added salt.
Tip: Many snack foods like pretzels, chips and snack mixes can be high in added sodium. Look for lower sodium versions if you watching the salt in your diet.
8. Certain Meats
Ham, bacon, and sausage are extremely high in sodium. Smoked sausage, pork, and ham contain around 650 mg of sodium per serving (27).
These processed meats also have vitamins and minerals such as amino acids, B vitamins, and more, but it is important to choose lower sodium versions. Consume processed meats like sausage and bacon in moderation. There is also some evidence that overconsumption of processed meats can lead to an increased risk of some cancers (28).
Summary: Summary: Processed meats like ham, bacon, and sausage are high in sodium. There is also some evidence that processed meat can increase risk of some cancers. Consume these meats in moderation.
Bread often comes with a lot of sodium, too (29). Bagels have the highest sodium of any bread with 430 mg of sodium per serving.
Bread comes fortified with vitamins and minerals, and whole grain varieties are rich in fiber. However, consuming multiple servings of bread throughout the day can add up in sodium if you are watching your intake.
Tip: Consume bread in moderation as some breads can also contain some sodium. Choose whole grain varieties for the most health benefits.
Pickles are fermented cucumbers, so that should be healthy right?
The answer is tricky. Fermented foods help to promote better gut health and functioning in the body (30). But pickles are very high in sodium (31). This likely will not cause an issue if you watch your portion sizes.
You can also buy pickles that are already sliced to keep the portions of pickles in moderation. This will help to get extra probiotics in your diet without too much sodium.
Summary: Summary: Pickles are a fermented food and can provide many health benefits, but they can also be high in sodium. Enjoy pickles in moderation.
11. Some Frozen Foods
Frozen foods that come with far too much sodium can include anything from French and sweet potato fries to frozen prepared meals.
These foods are often full of too much salt to preserve them and to add flavor (32). However various brands will vary in the amounts of sodium. Check the nutrition facts label on the back. The US FDA sets an upper limit on frozen foods must contain less than 600mg sodium per serving if they are considered to be “healthy” (33). However, the lower the sodium, the better.
Tip: Frozen foods can often be very high in sodium, but the sodium content can vary highly by brand. Check the nutrition facts panel and choose options that have the lowest amounts of sodium.
12. Soy and Teriyaki Sauce
Soy and teriyaki sauces are full of sodium, and they are often found in Asian cuisine (34).
Luckily, there are many alternatives to these sauces. Want to make a healthy stir fry? Try using a coconut aminos sauce instead. It has an extremely similar flavor, without all the extra sodium.
Tip: Soy sauce can be high in sodium for those who are trying to limit their sodium intake. Consider coconut aminos as a lower sodium alternative.
Sodium is an essential part of your diet, but it is exceedingly rare to not get enough. Most people get too much sodium, because of how popular the foods above are and how ubiquitiously salt is added to foods in processing and in prepared foods in restaurants.
Be sure to always monitor your portion sizes and try to replace some of these foods with lower sodium versions if you watching your sodium intake.
Always speak to your doctor if you think you are getting too much sodium and you have pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and more.