What are the ‘Salty 6’ Foods? 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Close Up of Anonymous Man Adding Salt to a Meal
Lots of us these days are watching our sodium intake. We might be saying “hold the salt” when preparing our foods at home and switching to herbs or other spices to add a little extra flavor to our meals instead. Studies have shown it’s mainly processed foods that we buy at the grocery store and order from restaurants that are contributing to our daily sodium overload. And this extra sodium can be hard to spot. That’s why health experts have come up with the Salty 6 to identify categories of food known for their added salt.

Salt and our bodies

We need some salt in our diet. But too much sodium chloride – the chemical name for table salt – can be bad news for our health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily. But most adults and children blow past that figure each day, instead consuming more than 3,400 milligrams on average. And 90% of the sodium we’re consuming is in the form of salt – most of it added into processed foods or restaurant meals before we ever take our first bites.
What’s the health connection? A high-sodium diet can contribute to high blood pressure in many individuals, and high blood pressure puts people at an increased risk for strokes and heart disease.

The Salty 6

The Salty 6 are groups of foods that can add an unhealthy amount of sodium into your diet. Understanding the Salty 6 categories can help you make better choices when you’re ordering in a restaurant or buying groceries at the store. It also helps to play detective and read the labels on the foods you’re buying. For example, an item may say “no salt added” but still contain a hefty helping of sodium when you flip the packaging over to read the nutrition facts label.
These are the Salty 6, with information and suggestions provided by the American Heart Association:
  1. Breads and rolls: If you have toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and garlic bread with dinner, this caution might be for you. “Some foods that you eat several times a day, such as bread, add up to a lot of sodium even though each serving might not seem high in sodium. Check the labels to find lower-sodium varieties.”
  2. Pizza: “A slice pepperoni pizza can contain almost a third of your daily recommended dietary sodium. Try swapping in veggies to your next slice.”
  3. Sandwiches: “A sandwich or burger from a fast-food restaurant can contain more than 100% of your daily suggested dietary sodium. Try half a sandwich with a side of salad (with a low-sodium dressing) instead.”
  4. Cold cuts and cured meats: “One 2 ounce serving, or six thin slices of deli meat can contain as much as a third of your daily recommended dietary sodium. Build a sandwich with fresh vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, and bell peppers."
  5. Soup: “Sodium in one cup of canned soup of the same variety can range from 49 to 830 milligrams — more than a third of your daily recommended intake. Check the labels to find lower-sodium varieties.”
  6. Burritos and tacos: “Taco toppings and burrito fillings can pack a big sodium punch. Choose burritos and tacos that are full of veggies and lean sources of protein.”
Photo credit: Getty Images

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