Do you try to be careful about the amount of salt in your diet? Are you pretty sure you’re eating about the right amount of salt (also known as sodium chloride) every day, according to what most experts recommend?
You may be wrong about that. Even if you throw your salt shaker away, you may still be taking in a lot of sodium——especially if you eat processed or prepared foods. In fact, the majority of sodium in the daily American diet comes from such foods which are often found on supermarket shelves and restaurant meals.
That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to gradually reduce the amount of sodium added to foods. The FDA has released a draft guidance for industry that would set voluntary goals for reducing sodium levels in processed and prepared foods. The focus is the sodium added to your foods by manufactures and restaurants before you eat them; not the salt you add on your own when cooking or at the table.
The goal is to help consumers gradually reduce their daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. That’s about roughly one teaspoon of salt — the daily consumption amount recommended in federal dietary guidelines. Today, Americans consume an average 3,400 mg per day — almost 50 percent more than is generally recommended. That’s putting their health at risk. It’s no easy task for consumers to consume the recommended amount of sodium in their diets.
Why is too much sodium a serious problem? The words sodium and salt are often used interchangeably; but, there is a difference. The salt you sprinkle into your meal or add while cooking is a crystal-like compound (40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride). Salt is how sodium is most often consumed. Between personal use and the salt added to processed and prepared foods, at least 95 percent of the sodium in your diet comes in the form of salt.
The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly. That occurs naturally in many foods, including celery, beets, and milk. Too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure — a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Reducing sodium in foods could prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and illness over a decade. According to the centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), 90 percent of American adults eat more sodium than is recommended. Children and adolescent are eating too much sodium too, ranging from 2,900 mg per day for kids 6 to 10 years old, to 3,700 mg for teens age 14 to 18.
One in three Americans has high blood pressure, and in African Americans, that number increases to almost half.
Stay tune for part two of lessons on Sodium. For more information, you can contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office at 910-592-7161
Leitha Lee is the EFNEP program assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center. She can be reached by calling the Extension Office at 910-592-7161.