Most Americans eat way too much salt (sodium chloride). Even if you don't use the salt shaker, you are still more than likely taking in too much sodium. That is because most of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods and restaurant foods A diet high in sodium is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Despite pleas from government and other health experts over the last quarter-century to reduce sodium consumption, Americans are consuming more—not less—salt.
So what can be done to reduce sodium intake?
- Purchase "reduced sodium," "low sodium," or "no salt added" packaged/canned foods
- Use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned
- Use herbs and spices in cooking instead of salt
- Use fresh meats and cheeses in sandwiches
- Eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- Make foods from scratch, rather than using prepared foods, whenever possible
- Try using lemons and limes to season foods
What's the problem with salt anyway? Excess sodium consumption has been linked to high blood pressure (hypertension) and cardiovascular disease:
- Increased blood pressure causes an estimated two-thirds of strokes and almost half of all heart attacks around the world.
- About 65 million American adults have high blood pressure. An additional 45 million people have “pre-hypertension.” About 90 percent of Americans will eventually develop hypertension.
- African Americans’ rate of hypertension is 60 percent greater, and rate of stroke deaths 40 percent greater, than that of the general population.
- Americans now spend over $15 billion a year on medications to lower blood pressure.
- Consuming more salt tends to increase blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Sodium intake—mostly from salt—has drifted upwards over the past 30 years and now averages about 4,000 milligrams per day, about twice the recommended amount.
- The vast majority—about 77 percent—of sodium comes from processed foods and foods eaten outside the home. The foods that provide the most sodium to the average diet—because they are frequently consumed and/or rich in sodium—are bread, cheese, ham, salad dressings, and cakes and cookies.
- Many restaurant meals provide more than a whole day’s worth of sodium. Thousands of packaged foods provide one-fourth or more of a day’s maximum recommended intake.
For more information about the health effects of sodium, please visit: http://cspinet.org/salt/
In addition, The American Dietetic Association has developed a 3 minute video discussing ways to cut back on sodium in your diet. To view it, click here.