The average adult in the United States consumes 1,000 milligrams more sodium than the recommended 2,300-milligram daily limit, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the biggest high-sodium culprits in the American diet are pasta and meat dishes like spaghetti. A single serving of a frozen spaghetti and meat sauce entrГ©e can contain 674 milligrams of sodium, while a canned spaghetti meal might top 1,000 milligrams. With just a little more effort, you can make homemade spaghetti that contains significantly less sodium per serving.
Spaghetti noodles are naturally low in sodium: a single cup of cooked, enriched spaghetti noodles without added salt has only 1 milligram of sodium. It's when you add salt to the cooking water that the sodium content jumps up. Enriched spaghetti noodles cooked in salted water contain 183 milligrams of sodium, and the more salt you add to the water, the more the pasta will absorb, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Adding salt to the cooking water may enhance the flavor of your spaghetti, but if you're on a sodium-restricted diet, you're better off skipping the salt -- it's not needed when cooking any type of pasta -- and using low-sodium methods to season your meals.
Each 1/2 cup of ready-to-serve commercially available spaghetti sauce contains 553 milligrams of sodium. This may seem preferable to making your own from canned tomato sauce, but a 1/2-cup serving of regular tomato sauce is also high in sodium, with over 600 milligrams. Switching to a low-sodium pre-made spaghetti sauce will take you down to 38 milligrams of sodium per 1/2-cup serving, but your best choice for the lowest possible sodium content is to use no-salt-added canned tomato sauce as your base. This sauce contains just 13 milligrams of sodium per 1/2 cup.
A single tablespoon of a typical commercially available spaghetti seasoning mix may contain over 400 milligrams of sodium. For low-sodium spaghetti, the Cleveland Clinic advises against using prepackaged seasoning mixes. Instead, use flavorful combinations of no-sodium herbs and spices like garlic powder, oregano, basil and pepper. Try to use as little table salt as possible when seasoning your spaghetti: Each 1/2 teaspoon of salt has about 1,200 milligrams of sodium.
It's common for Americans to top their spaghetti with dry grated Parmesan cheese at the table. However, each tablespoon of this cheese adds 76 milligrams of sodium to the finished dish. As a substitute, try using shredded low-sodium Parmesan instead, which has only 3 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. Or, better yet, go for a sprinkling of freshly chopped herbs. A tablespoon of minced parsley or basil each have only a negligible amount of sodium and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals.