The typical American diet contains too much salt. In fact, most of us consume twice as much as we need, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.
Everyone needs some salt (sodium chloride) in his or her diet. Athletes and those who work and play outdoors need extra salt to replace losses from sweating. For every 2 pounds of weight lost because of sweating, an extra 800 milligrams should be taken.
Most of us get plenty of salt in our everyday diets. Salt is naturally occurring in some foods and makes up about 10 percent of our daily sodium intake. Another 10 percent is added at the table or while cooking.
Yet at least 75 percent of our total intake of salt comes from processed foods or salt added to restaurant food.
The long-term effect on our health is serious.
“Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one in three U.S. adults-nearly 75 million people aged 20 or older. An additional 50 million adults suffer from pre-hypertension. High blood pressure can increase the risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and kidney failure,” according to a recent media release by the FDA.
Current Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults limit sodium intake to 2300 mg per day, or about one teaspoon of table salt. Most Americans consume at least twice the recommended amount, 4-5000 mg of sodium or 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt per day. Those who need to lower their sodium intake should have 1,500 mg or less, depending on the level set by your physician.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, FDA administration commissioner, said, “We want to work in partnership with food manufacturers to develop a strategy for a voluntary reduction of sodium in processed foods.”
We should not expect food to taste different any time soon. Plans are being formulated to gradually reduce the sodium in recipes. Eventually, average consumption will be reduced by Â½ teaspoon per day.
A recent public health report found that the over consumption of salty snacks, cookies, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages needs to be curtailed.
“Otherwise the intervention of increased exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables will have limited impact,” according to the report.
The FDA recommends the following to lower salt intake:
Choose unsalted snacks.
Eat fresh fruit and fresh vegetables (not canned or frozen vegetables).
Use herbs and pepper, rather than salt to season food.
Eat leafy green vegetables and fruits from vines (which contain more potassium).
Read the Nutrition Facts label which lists the “Úily Value” for sodium. Look for foods with 5 percent or less. (Low sodium) Foods with 6 to 20 percent have moderate sodium. Above 20 percent for sodium is high. Choose foods that have 5 percent or less.
Look for the word “sodium” combined with other words: Monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, sodium sulfite, sodium saccharin, sodium bicarbonate, sodium benzoate, disodium phosphate, etc. (These are preservatives and other agents added to processed foods.)
Condiments and seasonings contain sodium, such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, bouillon cubes, onion and garlic salt. Processed meats, canned soups and vegetables and marinade sauces are generally high in sodium. Fast foods are also high in sodium.
Salt is what makes these foods taste good.
Patricia Petersen is a registered dietitian who provides nutrition coaching for a multisport program in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.