Are All Processed Foods High in Sodium?
Consumers want to know - are all processed foods high in sodium?
Americans often hear that the majority of their sodium intake comes from “processed foods”—and this notion is generally correct. But for many, it’s unclear what exactly is the definition of a processed food and whether or not all processed foods are high in sodium.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a processed food is “any food that has been changed from its original, raw form.” An easy way to think of it is that processed foods are food products that have a Nutrition Facts Label on the package. Generally, people should be wary of overconsuming processed foods that are high in sugars, fats and sodium. (1) Think - chips, frozen meal items, certain canned foods, and even baked goods such as breads.
But processing isn’t all bad—it actually helps to increase availability of safe and affordable nutrient dense and healthful foods to the public. In fact, some single ingredient foods that are purchased in a package, such as whole wheat flour and frozen corn are considered processed foods, but they aren’t the culprits of added sodium, and they contribute to a healthy diet.
In the U.S., more than 70% of the average person’s dietary sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods—not the salt shaker. (1) With this statistics in mind, it’s apparent that if someone wants to lower their dietary sodium intake, a good place to start is by monitoring and adjusting their consumption of prepared and processed foods that are high in sodium.
Though the processed foods category contains higher sodium levels on average, not all processed foods are created equal. Many food manufacturers are working to lower sodium levels in their foods to address rising concerns of high sodium intake leading to health issues. (2) It’s important to read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients label on food products to check whether or not the sodium content is suitable to help you achieve your sodium reduction goals. Listed below are some of the highest contributors of dietary sodium intake according to the CDC and What We Eat in America: (1,3,4)
- Breads and rolls
- Pizza, burritos and tacos
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Savory snacks (chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack mixes, crackers)
The list above provides a starting point of foods to eat less often when trying to lower sodium intake. Be sure to read and compare labels and ingredient lists of different brands of similar items. Whenever possible, choose foods with less sodium added.
- Innova Market Insights
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. What We Eat in America Cdc-pdf[PDF-64K]External. NHANES 2013-2014. Agricultural Research Service Website.