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Sodium: What You Need To Know

Reading food labels: Checking for sodium

Sodium is an electrolyte (containing an electrical charge) which attracts water on a chemical level, causing your body to build up fluids, thus increasing your body mass and effect your body weight. Studies have also been shown in animal cells that a high sodium diet is linked to larger fat cells. Sodium can also make you very thirsty which some people mistake for hunger or drink calorie filled drink. Salt also enhances the taste of food which can lead to overeating. Potassium aids the body in flushing out excess sodium.

To assess a food's sodium level, check the back and sides as well as the front of the package or container. The label may offer a clue (see below for a translation of what the terms mean). But the actual amount is listed in the Nutrition Facts panel found on the product's back or side.

IF THE LABEL SAYS _____ IT MEANS: Sodium-free or salt-free Less than 5 mg sodium per serving Very low sodium Less than 35 mg sodium per serving Low sodium Less than 140 mg sodium per serving Light in sodium At least 50% less sodium than original product Reduced sodium At least 25% less sodium than original product

Here are the top 10 types of food that account for more than 40% of the sodium we eat each day, along with some ideas for simple swaps to trim your salt intake.

1. Breads and rolls. As noted above, this category tops the list not because bread is especially salty (a slice contains about 100 to 200 mg of sodium) but because we eat so much of it. Smart swaps: Instead of toast or a bagel for breakfast, have a bowl of oatmeal prepared with just a pinch of salt. Bypass the dinner breadbasket for a serving of whole grains, such as barley, brown rice, farro, or quinoa.