Where's the salt?

Consumer Reports lab tests find salt in all kinds of foods

By Jeremy Selwyn
Chief Snacks Officer


Consumer Reports got some surprising results when their lab analyzed the salt content of various foods for the January 2009 article, "Shake salt content from your diet." They found that many foods not generally considered to be salty actually contain lots of sodium.

Should you care about sodium intake? CR says "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." Notice that they used the word "might."

When they compared servings of potato chips (1 oz) and cottage cheese (1/3 cup), the cottage cheese had twice the sodium (360 mg vs. 180 mg).

A two-egg omelette with an ounce of Swiss cheese had 295 mg of sodium; a whole grain bagel with nothing on it had 440 mg.

They even visited McDonald's, where they found that the sodium in a Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (890 mg) dwarfed the amount in a Large Fries (350 mg). So much for healthy salads.

CR addressed why some of these foods contain so much salt. "Adding sodium is a cheap way to improve the taste and texture of countless processed and prepared foods," they said.

They compared Ruffles with Baked Ruffles and found that a serving of the baked ones has 200 mg of sodium, vs. 160 mg in the tastier non-baked ones. Why might Frito-Lay have done this? "When fat is removed, sodium is sometimes added to compensate," CR said. So if you think you think you're necessarily eating healthier by eating low-fat chips, you might have to think again.

Among CR's tips for lowering your salt intake is to "Avoid sodium heavweights" — a list that includes soy sauce, chicken bouillon, Spam, sardines and frozen dinners. (Absent from the list were Potato chips, cheese puffs and pretzels.)

Regardless of what CR said, Taquitos.net will continue to seek out the tastiest snacks to review, and of course it's your own responsibility to decide what you should eat and how much. We're not in the business of saying what's healthy for you and what isn't. But this study is yet another reason that you should question it when some of the ill-informed "health reporter" drones in the media mindlessly parrot those who blame half of the world's health problems on our beloved delicious salty chips. Snacks are a convenient target, but the science doesn't always back it up.

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