Many of us love to eat delicious south-of-the-border dishes, including tacos. But, did you know that among different brands of the same food, the sodium content can vary a lot.
That's why it’s important to compare the nutrition labels of similar products and choose the one lowest in sodium.
Remember, keeping sodium in check is just one part of the overall heart-healthy eating pattern the American Heart Association recommends.
This pattern emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans, nuts and nontropical oils; and limits sodium, saturated fat, red meat, added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Here's how to build a better taco.
Select a shell with your heart in mind. A flour tortilla can contain 364 mg of sodium! Select a shell that includes whole grains or veggies and a lower amount of sodium.
Some examples include:
- Flour tortilla: 364 mg sodium
- Whole wheat tortilla: 210 mg
- Corn tortilla: 11 mg
- Lettuce wrap: 2 mg
Pick a protein that delivers flavor without too much sodium. And remember to limit saturated fat and trans fat. Here are some examples (2 oz meat, 1/8 cup beans):
- Ground beef: 48 mg sodium
- Grilled chicken: 49 mg
- Baked fish (Tilapia): 34 mg
- Traditional refried beans: 110 mg
- Reduced sodium refried beans: 41 mg
- Reduced sodium black beans: 41 mg
Season with spices. Two teaspoons of packaged taco seasoning can have 411 mg of sodium! Make your own by combining ½ teaspoon each of cumin, oregano, chili powder and garlic powder for a total of 42 mg of sodium.
Choose your cheese wisely. Cheese can be high in sodium and saturated fat. Compare nutrition labels to find your best option, and use cheese as a garnish instead of a main ingredient.
Here are some types of shredded cheese (2 Tbsp) you might sprinkle on a taco:
- Cheddar: 92 mg sodium
- Mexican blend: 47 mg
- Low-sodium cheddar: 3 mg
Pile on the veggies. Fill out your taco with vegetables. You can even replace some of the meat and cheese. Most fruits and veggies are naturally low in sodium.
Here are some options to consider (¼ cup):
- Tomato, canned: 141 mg sodium
- Tomato, raw: 2 mg
- Avocado: 3 mg
- Lettuce: 1 mg
Tantalize your taste buds with toppings. Two tablespoons of traditional salsa might boast more than 250 mg of sodium! Homemade salsa, like AHA’s Black Bean Salsa, is full of fresh flavor with almost no sodium.
Here are some flavorful toppings to compare (2 Tbsp each):
- Traditional salsa: 250 mg sodium
- Salsa verde: 180 mg
- AHA Black Bean Salsa: 2 mg
- Jalapeno, canned: 300 mg
- Jalapeno, raw: 0 mg
- Olives, canned: 123 mg
- Onion, raw: 1 mg
Here is a PDF text version of this infographic.
More great recipes for Cinco de Mayo, National Taco Day or any day!
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All sodium data from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28