Americans eat too much salt. You deserve the right to choose how much salt you eat. But that decision is often made for you by the food industry – more than 75 percent of the sodium Americans eat comes from some processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods – not from the salt shaker.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft of the first-ever voluntary sodium targets that set limits on how much sodium should be in certain foods. This historic announcement encourages food companies and restaurants to lower sodium levels.
If fully embraced by the food industry, these targets give you more freedom to choose the healthier option.
A moderate level of sodium in the food supply can greatly reduce risk for heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. In fact, sodium reduction could save more than 1 million lives and billions of dollars in healthcare costs over the next 10 years.
Diet experts recommend a daily consumption of less than 2,400 milligrams (mg), which is the amount of sodium in a teaspoon of table salt. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may advise limiting yourself to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
The main sources of sodium in the average U.S. diet are: 5 percent added while cooking, 6 percent added while eating, 12 percent from natural sources and 77 percent from processed foods. About 9 out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium. Americans on average consume 3,436 mg sodium daily.
How can you cut down? When you buy prepared and packaged foods, read the "Nutritional Facts" panel for the amount of sodium. Some products also include sodium terms. Here's what they mean: "sodium-free," less than 5 mg per serving; "very low-sodium," 35 mg or less per serving; “low-sodium," 140 mg or less per serving; "reduced sodium,” 25 percent less sodium than usual; "lite or light in sodium," 50 percent less sodium than the regular version; "unsalted," "no salt added" or "without added salt," contains only the sodium that's a natural part of the food.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that a food t h a t claims to be "healthy" must not exceed 480 mg sodium. "Meal type" products must not exceed 600 mg sodium.