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Men’s Health Magazine names the saltiest foods in the U.S.

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:39pm

The 20 saltiest foods in America

Salt, salt, salt.

Avoid these foods if you care about heart health, blood pressure and stroke


By Lauren Murrow, Men’s Health magazine

942637 Salty food may seem like the least of your worries, especially if you're among the 40 percent of people who mindlessly shake salt on every dish. An extra dash here, a few sprinkles there--what's the big deal?

A lot, when you consider the fact that a mere teaspoon of the stuff contains all 2,300 milligrams (mg) of your recommended daily allotment. Yet daily salt consumption is on the rise in the United States--from 2,300 mg in the 1970s to more than 3,300 mg today. And according to Monell Chemical Senses Center researchers, 77 percent of that sodium intake comes from processed-food purveyors and restaurants. Their motivation: Pile on the salt so we don't miss natural flavors and fresh ingredients.

Why is that a problem? With ever-expanding portion sizes, supersalty foods are displacing fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium. And a 1:2 ratio of dietary salt to potassium is critical for your health. Studies show that a high-sodium, low-potassium diet is linked to a host of maladies, including high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, and exercise-induced asthma.

To protect your heart, your bones, your muscles, and your tastebuds, we scoured takeout menus and supermarket shelves to expose the 20 saltiest foods in America. No need to take the information with a grain of salt. These dishes provide plenty.

20: Saltiest Side Dish

Denny's Honey Smoked Ham, grilled slice

  • 1,700 mg sodium, 85 calories

    Calorie for calorie, this is the saltiest dish in America.

    This side is steeped in salty brine before it's smoked, soaking up 70 percent of your daily sodium intake.

  • 19: Saltiest Dessert

    Atlanta Bread Company Raspberry Scone

  • 1,750 mg sodium, 360 calories

    This fruit scone packs the same sodium load as seven servings of bacon at Atlanta Bread Company. If you need a sweet fix, opt instead for the pumpkin bread, which has a tenth of the sodium (160 mg).

  • 18: Saltiest Soup

    Baja Fresh Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 2,760 mg sodium, 320 calories

    Soup and salt are nearly synonymous in the food world, but Baja takes it to the extreme, sinking more than a day's worth of sodium into a single serving. Start with a bowl of stewed black beans with a scoop of fresh salsa instead; a serving has an eye-popping, belly-filling 26 grams (g) of fiber, with less than half the salt of the soup.

  • 17: Saltiest Burger

    Hardee's 2/3 lb Monster Thickburger

  • 2,770 mg sodium, 1,420 calories, 108 g fat

    More than 100 percent of your daily sodium allowance is trapped inside this burger's bun. And the three slices of processed American cheese are oozing with 780 mg sodium. Try the Low-Carb Thickburger--you'll shave 1,000 calories and 1,700 mg sodium.

  • 16: Saltiest "Healthy" Food

    Chili's Guiltless Grill Chicken Platter

  • 2,780 mg sodium, 590 calories, 85 g carbs

    Beware the bait and switch. Many restaurants and packaged-food producers advertise their dishes as being low in calories and fat, only to jack up the sugar and salt content. Case in point: This platter actually has more sodium than Chili's 1,890-calorie Country Fried Steak with sides, toast, and gravy. Stick with the Guiltless Salmon, the best choice on Chili's sometimes-healthy special menu.

  • 15: Saltiest Pasta

    Fazoli's Rigatoni Romano

  • 3,180 mg sodium, 1,090 calories, 54 g fat, 101 g carbs

    Salt is one of the top ingredients in Italian sausage, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese, the three items that serve as this dish's backbone. Simply order your noodles topped with marinara sauce and peppery chicken. The chicken has just 1 g fat and less sodium than the other toppings you can order for your pasta.

  • 14: Saltiest Chinese Entrée

    P.F. Chang's Beef with Broccoli

  • 3,752 mg sodium, 1,120 calories, 65 g fat

    Like many Chinese dishes, this ubiquitous entrée sounds deceptively healthy. Also like many Chinese dishes, this meal is swimming in a murky brown sauce made mostly of soy sauce and oil. Skip the fried rice (it can contain up to 2,700 mg sodium on its own) and send out an SOS ("sauce on the side") to your server.

  • 13: Saltiest Breakfast

    Arby's Sausage Gravy Biscuit

  • 3,754 mg sodium, 961 calories

    Yes, cured meat and lard-riddled biscuits are found in this troubled Southern staple, but the coat of gravy carries 2,600 mg sodium on its own, making it the primary offender.

  • 12: Saltiest Beef Entrée

    Bob Evans Steak Tips and Noodles

  • 4,131 mg sodium, 822 calories, 43 g fat

    Bob lubricates his take on beef stroganoff with a huge ladleful of gravy, damning this dish before you even poke your fork into it. Try your steak without the salt bath: The regular sirloin has half the calories and a commendable 638 mg sodium.

  • 11: Saltiest Frozen Dinner

    Swanson Hungry-Man XXL Roasted Carved Turkey

  • 4,480 mg sodium, 1,360 calories, 70 g fat

    Yes, the nutrition data on the back suggests that the package contains two servings, but the label proudly proclaims the 1 1/2 pounds inside, and besides, how many guys are going to share their frozen dinner?

  • 10: Saltiest Bread

    Dunkin' Donuts Salt Bagel

  • 4,520 mg sodium, 320 calories, 62 g carbs

    This bagel is more like a giant salt-encrusted pretzel, delivering 188 percent of your recommended daily sodium intake.

  • 9: Saltiest Sandwich

    Quiznos Turkey Bacon Guacamole Large Sub with Cheese and Reduced-Fat Ranch Dressing

  • 4,670 mg sodium, 1,120 calories, 49 g fat, 116 g carbs

    First, skip the large sandwich. At Quiznos, few come in under 1,000 calories and 3,000 mg sodium. Next, abandon mozzarella for Swiss, which has a tenth of the sodium. Finally, choose one of the low-calorie subs at Quiznos--the Tuscan Turkey, or better yet, the Honey Bourbon Chicken.

  • 8: Saltiest Pizza

    Pizza Hut Meat Lover's Stuffed Crust Pizza (3 slices of the 14'' large)

  • 5,070 mg sodium, 1,560 calories, 87 g fat, 114 g carbs

    A good rule of thumb: Never order a pizza with more than a single meat topping. Because if the calories don't get you, the salt will. This problematic pie has six meats and 4,000 mg sodium too much.

  • 7: Saltiest Comfort Food

    Denny's Meat Loaf Dinner (with Mashed Potatoes and Corn)

  • 5,080 mg sodium, 1,210 calories, 69 g fat, 97 g carbs

    There's nothing comforting about a dinner that carries the same sodium load as 27 strips of bacon. Trade the salty loaf for the Steakhouse Strip Dinner, which has just 460 mg sodium and 390 calories (before sides).

  • 6: Saltiest Salad

    Romano's Macaroni Grill Chicken Florentine

  • 5,460 mg sodium, 840 calories, 53 g fat

    Salads are often the biggest blood-pressure boosters on the menu, since the innocent leaves play perfect host to a flurry of briny toppings and dangerous dressings. Here, salt-laden olives, capers, and Parmesan collide with Macaroni Grill's massive portions and its cooks' affinity for the saltshaker.

    The only reasonable insalata on the menu is the Mozzarella alla Caprese: It has 450 calories and 760 mg sodium.

  • 5: Saltiest Mexican Entrée

    Chili's Buffalo Chicken Fajitas

  • 5,690 mg sodium, 1,730 calories, 107 g fat, 143 g carbs

    Here are a few offenders to choke on: fried chicken, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese, smoked bacon, ranch dressing, and sour cream. All make this the sodium equivalent of single-handedly downing three and a half baskets of Chili's bottomless tostada chips. Add rice and beans and you've just ordered 3 days' worth of sodium and an entire day of calories. If you're salt-sensitive, avoid fajitas--any kind of fajitas--at all costs.

  • 4: Saltiest Kids' Meal

    Cosi Kid's Pepperoni Pizza

  • 6,405 mg sodium, 1,901 calories, 93 g fat, 190 g carbs

    Kids under 13 should max out at 1,900 to 2,200 mg sodium a day, according to American Heart Association. This pizza serves up nearly three times that much, plus an entire day's worth of calories. You could feed your child 50 turkey sandwiches at Cosi for the same sodium price tag. (But stick to just one.)

  • 3: Saltiest Seafood Entrée

    Romano's Macaroni Grill Grilled Teriyaki Salmon

  • 6,590 mg sodium, 1,230 calories, 74 g fat, 79 g carbs

    Think you're playing it smart by opting for fish? The slather of teriyaki, which is essentially highly sweetened soy sauce in concentrated form, sinks that strategy fast. The grilled halibut, topped with a fresh tomato-basil relish instead, has just a quarter of the sodium.

  • 2: Saltiest Appetizer

    Papa John's Cheesesticks with Buffalo Sauce

  • 6,700 mg sodium, 2,605 calories, 113 g fat, 296 g carbs

    If you were to split this appetizer with two friends, you'd still be close to downing your daily sodium allowance before you even reach for the pizza. Each stick packs the same amount of sodium as a small slice of cheese pizza, and that's without dipping. Your best bet? Cheese pizza. Thin crust.

  • 1: The Saltiest Dish in America

    Romano's Macaroni Grill Chicken Portobello

  • 7,300 mg sodium, 1,020 calories, 66 g fat

    With three items on our top 20 list, plus a slew of dishonorable mentions, Macaroni Grill earns its title as America's saltiest chain restaurant. But what makes this the saltiest dish in America? One word: demi-glace, a fancy French name for the viscous salt slick that blankets this disastrous dish. You would have to eat 32 cups of potassium-rich broccoli to compensate for this sodium avalanche.

  • Source: Men's Health

    Updated: 1:10 p.m. ET Apr. 25, 2008

    © 2008


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