The 8 NEW Saltiest Foods in America

Turns out, you definitely can have too much of a good thing. Like snow. And inlaw visits. And Dancing With the Stars.

In the food world, that thing is sodium. This mineral plays a critical role in a healthy diet and maintains the correct balance of fluids in the body, but only in small doses. Unfortunately, the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium every day—easily 1,000 milligrams more than the absolute maximum amount we ought to be taking in, and nearly 3,000 milligrams more than the amount our bodies need to function normally!

Why is this so dangerous? Well, for starters, a high-sodium diet can wreak havoc on your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. And frighteningly, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute found that the effects of sodium over-consumption eerily resembled those of drug addiction—meaning that the more we eat, the more we crave. That means salty foods tax you twice: They cause an initial strain on your cardiovascular system, and by tempting you to eat more salt-riddled calories, they hit you again around the waistline.

So here’s the question: How do you protect yourself from the dangers of sodium? Avoid the salt shaker? Nope—the salt you add at the table has little effect on overall sodium intake. The real culprit is restaurant food, which supplies a staggering 80 percent of the sodium in the American diet.

Every fall, the Eat This, Not That! team scours restaurant menus looking for America's saltist foods—and gives you the smartest ways to fight back and lose 10, 20, 30 pounds or more. This year's list (below), from the new guide Eat This, Not That! 2012, includes a host of new menu items along with a couple of repeat offenders. But they all have one thing in common: They're making America's cardiologists rich.

#8: Saltiest Pasta

Ruby Tuesday Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta
3,737 mg sodium
1,102 calories
65 g fat 

SODIUM EQUIVALENT: 10 Large Orders of McDonald’s French Fries  

Congratulations, Ruby Tuesday! This dish makes our list for the second year in a row. How the chain manages to infuse a pasta dish with nearly two teaspoons of pure salt is beyond me. I just know that they're good at it. The chain makes only one pasta dish with fewer than 2,000 mg of sodium (almost an entire day's worth!), and it has only two pasta dishes with fewer than 3,000 mg. The other four pasta dishes on the menu each have more than 3,000 mg.

Eat This Instead!
Spaghetti Squash Marinara

836 mg sodium

257 calories
12 g fat

EAT RIGHT RULE: Avoid anything beige—be it chicken strips, french fries, or fried catfish. If you don’t see color on your plate, you don’t have a healthy meal. For more quick and easy ways to melt your belly fast, follow me right here on Twitter.

NEXT: Saltiest Mexican Entree >>

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