Are you among the more than 90 percent of Americans who consume too much
sodium? While you may think that's impossible because you never add
salt to your meals, you should know that food manufacturers and restaurants
are adding it for you.
"High levels of sodium can be a major health concern. It can lead
to high blood pressure, which is a contributing factor to stroke, heart
disease, kidney damage and other problems," says
Mohammed Qazi, MD, an internal medicine physician with
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group in Fullerton. "Salt is prevalent in so many manufactured and prepared
foods that you have to be vigilant about what you are eating."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is doing its part to help. The agency
has proposed guidelines that would ask food manufacturers and restaurant
owners to voluntarily lower the sodium content in their food.
"The changes would take place gradually so consumers can get adjusted
to the taste of less-salty foods," Dr. Qazi says. "If these
foods don't have as much sodium, it will be easier for people to cut
their sodium intake."
Currently, federal dietary recommendations call for American teens and
adults to consume 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day--but the average
intake is actually 3,400 milligrams for adults and 3,700 milligrams for
teens ages 14 to 18.
The federal guidelines are awaiting final approval. But you can start cutting
your sodium intake now by limiting extra-salty foods in your diet and
by making smart decisions at the grocery store, Dr. Qazi says.
“Most people don’t realize just how much salt they eat every
day. Bread is loaded with salt, for example,” said Dr. Qazi. “It’s
important to read labels and look for words like “sodium,”
“soda,” and the symbol “Na” on labels. When you’re
shopping for food, it’s a good idea to get most of your food from
the outer aisles of the store, where you’ll find produce and fruit,
dairy foods and meats. The inside aisles are where all the processed food
is and most of that is extremely high in salt.”
Sodium counts vary depending on the manufacturer or restaurant, but here
are some examples drawn from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
National Nutrient Database.
Pizza 2,020 mg in one 15-ounce frozen cheese pizza
Sandwiches 531 mg in one 6-inch, fast-food chicken sub
Deli Meats 576 mg in one serving of deli-sliced turkey
Pasta 2,130 mg in one serving of restaurant-prepared Italian meat lasagna
Snack foods 352 mg in 1 ounce of pretzels
Salad dressings 178 mg in 1 Tbsp. of caesar dressing
Soup 744 mg in 1 cup of chicken noodle soup
Cheese 738 mg in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
Learn more about
Dr. Qazi. Learn more about
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.