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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: Sodium can turn up in surprising places (for 12/13/09)

December 4, 2009

I noticed that the canned chickpeas I buy to use in my salads say "brine" on the ingredients listing. Would this type have more salt than other varieties? Also, my husband likes pickles with his lunch. Do they contain too much sodium to have on a daily basis?

Good for you for paying attention to the sodium in your diet. Most Americans consume much more sodium than they need. The recommendation is to limit sodium to about 2,300 milligrams a day -- the amount in a teaspoon of sodium chloride (also known as table salt). But sodium is part and parcel of so many foods, it's difficult to achieve that goal.

Reducing sodium intake could be a life-saving step, especially for at-risk groups including people over 50, African-Americans, or anyone with high blood pressure or diabetes. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people who consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day have better blood pressure than those who consume more. Since nearly one-third of American adults have high blood pressure, reducing salt and sodium intake could have broad impact.

For your chickpeas, it may be a good idea to look for a variety with no salt added. Brine is water that's nearly saturated with salt. Check the Nutrition Facts label -- sodium is always listed and you can get an idea of how much you're consuming. You can also reduce sodium content by rinsing the beans before eating them.

As for the pickles, again, it's good that you're being cautious. One large dill pickle can have up to 1,700 milligrams of sodium. Again -- look at the label and determine just how much sodium is in a typical serving. If your husband doesn't want to cut back on pickles, he should make sure the rest of his diet is lower in sodium.

To do, cut back on canned, processed and frozen foods, which tend to be high in sodium. That includes canned soups, hot dogs, pizza, olives, frozen meals, ham and bacon and virtually all Chinese food. You'll also find lots of sodium in cheese, canned tuna and tomato juice. Also check the labels on flavored rice or pasta dishes as well as instant and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. You might be surprised how quickly the sodium in your diet adds up.

Instead, focus meals on fresh poultry, fish and lean meats instead of processed types, and choose fresh, plain frozen or canned "no salt added" vegetables. In cooking and at the table, use herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning blends instead of salt.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Julie Shertzer, registered dietitian and program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition, in the College of Education and Human Ecology.


Martha Filipic
Julie Shertzer