Are You Aware of the Hidden Salt in Chicken?

By Mel Thomassian (RD)
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You wouldn’t expect uncooked chicken to be a significant source of sodium, would you? But apparently it can be. And, this is before you add any seasoning to it in your own home.

Injecting raw chicken with saltwater solutions during processing is actually a widespread practice in the poultry industry. Manufacturers say it makes for tastier, juicier meat. Understandably, saltwater plumping has left many nutrition experts with a bee in their bonnet! But, just how much salt are we talking here?

A raw chicken breast can contain as little as 50 to 75mg of sodium per 4-ounce serving.

However, the “enhanced” varieties of chicken available in the US, are reported to contain well over 400mg of sodium per serving.

What really bugs me about all this is the fact that when people buy plain chicken, they think they’re getting a healthy food, that is naturally low in sodium.

What to look for on the food label

Saltwater-infused meats typically state “enhanced with up to 15% chicken broth.” But, unfortunately the label can also claim the ingredients are “all natural” if ingredients in the solution meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition of natural.

The USDA defines the term natural as:

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.

But, it appears some chickens are sold at grocery stores having been “enhanced,” and they’re still being called “natural.” Something’s not right here!

Obviously, chicken isn’t the only food to be aware of. You’ll also find high levels of sodium in frozen foods, canned foods, processed foods, ready meals, soups and condiments.

For example, the sodium content of canned soup could be anywhere from 400mg to 900mg per cup, and many frozen ready meals contain well over 1,000mg per meal.

Recommendations state we should be getting no more than 2,400mg of sodium per day. This is equal to roughly 6g (1 teaspoon) of table salt per day. Some people — African Americans, middle-aged and older adults, and people with high blood pressure — need less than 1,500mg of sodium per day.

How to read food labels

Salt is sodium chloride, and food labels often list both the salt and sodium content, so it can get confusing. To convert salt to sodium, divide by 2.5. To convert sodium to salt, multiply by 2.5. For example, 1g of sodium per 100g equals 2.5g of salt per 100g.

Compare food products per 100g:

  • 1.25g salt or more per 100g is a lot
  • 0.25g salt or less per 100g is a little
  • 0.5g sodium or more per 100g is a lot
  • 0.1g sodium or less per 100g is a little

What do you think of the practice of saltwater plumping? Were you aware of it before?

Via: LA Times


  1. Lee

    This is scaremongering. We need upto 2000mg of salt a day for the body to maintain homeostasis. The problems arise from eating processed foods. If you stop adding salt to your food then even eating “enhanced” chicken will still keep your salt intake levels well below the recommended daily allowance. It’s worth noting that bread is classed as a processed food and dairy should be kept to a bare minimum, just avoid processed foods such as ready meals, snacks, sweets, chocolate etc. if you can stick to these simple restrictions then the Western diet can be the healthiest diet in the world as it covers every single nutrient and vitamin the body needs for optimum health.

  2. Roger De John

    I had swollen ankles. Stopped eating chicken and within days they got back to normal. Also significant drop in blood pressure which was quite high.

  3. Jan

    I can taste the salt when I bake it plain. I need a low sodium diet

  4. lynn

    its also good to remember that all people who have high blood pressure are not salt sensitive. the same goes for caffeine.

  5. Lynn - Going FAT2Lean

    Awareness is key! Know your body and don’t use salt just because you think it helps something taste better. There are lots of herbs out there that enhance the taste of food. Try them instead.

  6. Dr. J

    Salt, at the levels people are consumming it today, is bad for you.

  7. Eileen

    Agreed. The two reasons I can think of not to eat salt are:

    1. You have a medical condition. Either your heart cannot handle a higher blood pressure or you’re blood pressure is higher than normal. In these cases, salt is indeed dangerous.

    2. Aesthetic reasons. Salt makes you retain water and makes you look heavier. Bloating, unsightly as it may be, is not dangerous.

    As long as we’re healthy our bodies are perfectly capable of handling excess salt. Several physiology professors of mine have confirmed this.

    People believe that salt is bad for them because that’s what they’ve been told thousands of times over. Look deeper, and you’ll see nothing is black and white 🙂

  8. Ben

    High blood pressure is dangerous. But if you have normal blood pressure, then salt raises it a little, but it is still well within the levels for “normal”, then that is not dangerous.

    Salt is not dangerous for healthy people with normal blood pressure and no other sodium-sensitive conditions. “Salt is dangerous” is false.

    Some people are allergic to nuts. But “nuts are dangerous, THEY CAN CAUSE YOU TO SUFFOCATE” is false. And silly.

    And it’s needlessly burdensome to people who are just trying to live their lives. There are plenty of real reasons to eat or not eat certain things. Please stop pushing the false, discredited ones.

    Eat salt or don’t as you wish. Just stop misleading people about it.

  9. Spectra

    I usually buy either whole or cut up chickens that aren’t enhanced, but I was aware that they do inject the prefrozen, skinless/boneless ones with salt water to make them tastier. I’m not too worried about salt content myself, but it does make it a pain if you do have to worry about things like that.

  10. Ben

    If you don’t have a specific medical condition requiring a low sodium diet, then there’s no reason to believe it makes any difference.

    The “recommendations” for sodium intake don’t exist to help you personally. They exist to help “public health”, by prescribing a low sodium diet to everyone in order to help the minuscule portion of our society with undiagnosed hypertension or other undiagnosed sodium-sensitive conditions. If you are not in that category, the low sodium diet they recommend is simply an extra burden you’re being asked to bear for no benefit to you or anyone else.

  11. Jody - Fit at 51

    Personally, I think it sucks BUT I was aware of this chicken plumping not only from those crazy Foster Farm commercials that give me a big ole laugh BUT I am a label reader.

    I exercise quite a bit so sodium is not as big a problem for me as others since I sweat a lot out BUT I do watch it just because I tend to get too bloated with higher sodium foods regardless of how much I exercise or not or how much water I drink….

  12. Sharon

    when my husb was diagnosed with heart failure we learned how much salt there is everywhere, including raw chicken. we have to cook everything and still watch out there’s not already salt in there. i had to toss a whole turkey breast, my first meal after he was released from the hospital because i did not think to look for salt on that. it tasted salty then we read.

    it is everywhere. no problem for me, but his heart can’t handle any extra fluid so his salt must be controlled. i think this is why they told us the survival rate is 5 years. because most people don ‘t read and so don’t really control salt.

  13. Katie

    Honestly, if it’s listed on the label, isn’t it up to every individual person to read them? Regulation ensures that there is information, but no one can be forced to use it.

  14. Heather

    Yeah, it says it right there on the package. It detracts from the taste of the meat and I don’t like that.

    However, I could care less about the sodium content of food.