Americans are eating too much salt. A recent study published by the Center for Disease Control found that the many Americans consume way too much salt. The study, based on surveys of more than 7,200 people in 2007 and 2008 (including nearly 3,000 children), found that approximately nine out of 10 persons in the United States ingest more sodium than recommended. Daily dietary sodium intake, excluding sodium added at the dinner table, averages 3,266 mg/day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily sodium intake 2,300 mg overall and 1,500 mg for specific at-risk populations comprising about half of the population. Those numbers indicate that many Americans may be consuming up to twice their daily-recommended intake of sodium per day.
Health problems related to high sodium consumption include high blood pressure, or hypertension, which in 2008 was reported as a primary or contributing factor in approximately 348,000 deaths in the U.S. Hypertension is widespread, with thirty-one percent of adults in the United States being afflicted and fewer than half of those having their blood pressure under control. A mere 33% reduction in the average American’s daily sodium intake would potentially avert up to 81,000 deaths, and save an estimated $20 billion health-care dollars annually.
Sources of Dietary Sodium
Contrary to popular opinion, the problem with salt over-consumption lies not in the use of a salt shaker, but in eating the wrong foods. Americans get approximately two-thirds of their dietary sodium from processed foods and drinks purchased at their local supermarket or convenience store, and about one fourth from restaurant food — a source that has the highest per-calorie dietary sodium level.
Results of the CDC’s study indicate that a whopping 44% of sodium intake comes from 10 common foods (highest to lowest):
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts/cured meats
- Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers
- Pasta mixed dishes
- Meat mixed dishes
- Savory snacks like chips and pretzels
What Can Be Done?
People must be more careful about their food choices. And food manufacturers need to make reducing the sodium content in their food products a top priority. Consumers need to become more proactive – demand that manufacturers and restaurants strive to reduce excess sodium added to foods. States and localities can implement policies to reduce sodium in foods served in institutional settings like schools, child-care centers, and government cafeterias.
Six simple tips:
- NEVER use a salt shaker (it goes without saying, but I had to say it anyway).
- Cooking fresh food at home is the best way to reduce sodium intake. It is also the best way to stay lean.
- Do the math — monitor your daily sodium intake and try to keep that number under 2,300 mg.
- Avoid high salt content processed foods and those on the list above — a typical frozen 5 oz. turkey dinner can contain over 700 mg of salt!
- Read those supermarket food labels — choose low sodium alternatives. Watch out for misleading food labels that claim “low sodium’ but really mean slightly “less” sodium.
- Avoid salty items at restaurants. For instance, Red Lobster’s Admirals’ Feast packs a staggering 7,106 mg of sodium and a McDonald’s Chicken Club Sandwich contains roughly 1,690 mg of sodium. Ouch!
Additional information is available at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns