Food for Thought: Watch that salt shaker!

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier District Extension Agent

High sodium intake raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. This statement is accepted in the world of nutrition. Limiting the use of salt can be beneficial even if you do not have high blood pressure.

foodforthoughtCardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases. CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every 39 seconds, an adult dies of CVD. One dollar out of every six U S dollars is spent on CVD. Reducing the average sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day may save 26 billion health care dollars and reduce cases of hypertension by 16 million people.

The average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 and older is more than 3,400 mg. Nine out of 10 American kids eat more salt than they should, which raises their lifelong risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. High salt consumption is already affecting kids’ health, according to the CDC.

Currently, 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium to 2,300 mg per day. People over the age of 51 years, African Americans, and those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Sodium chloride or table salt is approximately 40 percent sodium. Understand just how much sodium is in salt so you can take measures to control your intake. (These amounts are approximate.)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
  • 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium

About 43 percent of the salt ingested by children comes from the 10 foods they eat the most. For adults about 40 percent of the sodium in their diet comes from these processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. The top 10 high sodium foods:

  1. Breads and rolls
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats (deli or packaged ham or turkey)
  3. Pizza
  4. Fresh and processed poultry
  5. Soups
  6. Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers
  7. Cheese
  8. Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)
  9. Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce
  10. Snacks like chips, pretzels and popcorn

Many foods that contribute a significant amount of sodium in the diet do not taste particularly salty, like breads and cheeses. Some of these foods are deceptively high in salt, others are lower in salt content but frequently consumed.

schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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