Americans eat way too much salt, and one reason is because processed and prepared foods have a lot of hidden salt, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. Proposed new guidelines for food manufactures and restaurants that were announced in early June, may change that. The FDA is asking food makers and eating establishments to voluntarily reduce salt levels in their products to help reduce American’s salt intake.
The draft guidelines target these sources of salt with the goal of reducing American’s average daily salt intake from 3,400 milligrams (mg) a day to 2,300 mg a day. It is no easy task for us to consume the recommended amount of sodium in our diets. We want to help reduce the amount of sodium across the entire food supply by setting reasonable goals; there are few interventions that could potentially have as great an overall benefit to public health.
Too much salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Reducing salt in foods could prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and illness over a decade in the United States, according to the FDA. Currently, 90 percent of Americans consume more salt than recommended. The problem is wide spread in children and teens. Foods that are often high in sodium include pizza, sandwiches, deli meats, pasta dishes, snacks, salad dressings, soups and cheese.
We know that many companies have already taken steps on their own to reduce sodium in certain foods, but our food supply is still too high in sodium. We will always have the choice to add salt to our foods. What we don’t have in place now is the regulators don’t have the choice to take it out. The foods that can be high in sodium are processed and prepared foods. Foods that are high in sodium don’t always taste salty. While pickles give themselves away, sweet cereals and pastries also have sodium. In addition, while one serving of a food, like a slice of bread may not have a lot of sodium, if you eat it several times a day it can add up- and you may be consuming more sodium than you realize.
This isn’t a one-size fits all approach. Sodium plays different roles, depending on the food, and each food has a different potential for sodium reduction.
With these facts in mind, what are you going to do with this information? The choice is yours, I hope that you will be serious about taking care of your health in a responsible way.
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.