Monday, June 28, 2010

90% of Americans Get Too Much Sodium

New data from the CDC indicates that only 9.6% of U.S. adults limit their daily sodium intake to the recommended levels!  At first that was very shocking to me, but upon thinking about it, it really is not.  It seems as though many people are eating out more frequently and eating more processed foods.  These foods are usually very high in sodium and people are often unaware of that fact.   Quick quiz: do you know what the daily sodium recommendations are?

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day.  Of course, this recommendation is for only about one-third of Americans.  The guidelines for anyone who is over 40,  has high blood pressure, or is African-American are far stricter at 1,500 mg of sodium each day.  Note: it looks like the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines that will come out later this year will encourage all Americans to make 1,500 mg of sodium per day their goal!

Any guesses as to how much sodium the average American takes in every day?  A whopping 3,466 mg of sodium!   What are the risks for taking in so much sodium?  A high sodium diet has been shown to raise blood pressure in most people.  This is unfortunate because high blood pressure increases a person's risk for stroke, heart disease and also kidney disease.  In fact, the CDC estimates that if everyone followed the sodium recommendations, there could be 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease and 66,000 fewer strokes every year.

Where is all this sodium coming from?  As I mentioned before, many people mistakenly believe that most of their salt comes from the salt shaker.  In reality, salt that we add ourselves only accounts for about 10% of our daily sodium.  About 75% of sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods.  I found it interesting that the CDC report  listed the three food groups from which we get the most sodium.  These included 37% of our daily sodium from grains (this included pizza crust and breads).  28% of our daily sodium comes from meats, including poultry, cold cuts and fish.  12% of our daily sodium comes from vegetables (this included potato chips, french fries, canned vegetables, canned vegetable soups and vegetables with sauces).

So, what can the average American do to cut down their sodium intake?
You can take simple steps like: eating fewer processed foods and restaurant foods (if you make food at home you can control the amount of sodium you add), eating more fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables without added sauces, reading food labels to help you choose low-sodium foods, rinsing canned vegetables and beans to remove as much salt as possible or buying the "no added salt" varieties.

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