Shaking salt from your food

But beware, the stuff hides in strange places

Last reviewed: January 2009

On average, Americans consume far more sodium than the recommended daily limit. That's unfortunate, since a high-sodium diet might increase a person's risk of high blood pressure (and subsequent heart attack, kidney disease, and stroke) and might also boost the risk of asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.

But taking a low-sodium approach isn't easy. Adding sodium is a cheap way to improve the taste and texture of countless processed and prepared foods, which are where Americans get three-fourths of the sodium in their diets.

Consumer Reports analyzed 37 foods and four salt substitutes to see how their actual sodium content compared with the amount claimed on the label. Labels told the truth (some products even had less sodium than claimed), with one exception: Enrico's Traditional Pasta Sauce No Salt Added. Its label listed 25 milligrams of sodium per half-cup serving, but one of the three samples we tested had about 160 mg and another had about 250 mg.

Accurate labeling is the good news. The bad news is that sodium lurks in foods that you'd never think to check.

Posted: December 2008 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: January 2009