Bread ranked first among the 10 foods responsible for 44 percent of sodium intake in the U.S., followed by luncheon meats and pizza, according to "The 10 saltiest foods in the American Diet" by my colleagues over at The Stew.
But the new report "Where's the sodium?" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaves out an even more important fact: Americans don’t consume enough potassium, registered dietitian Andy Bellatti tweeted today.
From a health standpoint, “limiting sodium is only half the battle,” Bellatti told me in an email. “Getting the required amounts of certain minerals -- especially calcium, potassium, and magnesium -- is just as important. Of course, the more processed a food, the higher its sodium (and lower its potassium).”
Potassium is a mineral that helps the cells, tissues and organs function properly. It's also an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. It can help prevent and control high blood pressure and is important for normal digestive and muscular function.
Bellatti praised the CDC report for identifying the top sources of sodium and for pointing out that sodium-laden food doesn’t necessarily taste salty. A Dunkin’ Donuts corn muffin, for example contains as much sodium as nine McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.
But he’s frustrated that sodium gets always gets the spotlight “because it inevitably leads to the food industry putting out 'reduced-sodium' versions of highly processed foods that are low in minerals,” he said.
“A kale, avocado, and chickpea salad that contains 600 milligrams of sodium is much different from a highly processed TV dinner with that same amount,” he said. “The salad is very high in minerals, which mitigates the effect of sodium. In fact, a kale/avocado/chickpea salad that contains 600 mg of sodium is a much better option than a low-sodium TV dinner that offers half that amount, but also offers paltry amounts of potassium and magnesium.”
Raisins, baked potatoes, lima beans, tomatoes and spinach all contain high amounts of potassium, according to this list.
Here at the top 10 foods ranked by sodium content:
1. Bread and rolls
2. Luncheon meats
4. Poultry products (such as chicken nuggets and patties)
6. Cheeseburgers and other sandwiches
9. Meat dishes
10. Snack foods like pretzels, chips and popcorn