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Shaking The Salt Habit PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.   
Friday, 25 April 2008 09:17

Following up on my earlier blog about Sodium, Calcium and you, here is a simple method to limit the amount of sodium in food. 

One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, and almost 1 billion people worldwide. Hypertension in turn is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. And while being overweight and inactive raises blood pressure, too much salt is a big culprit as well.

 The American Medical Association says cutting in half the sodium in processed and restaurant foods within 10 years could wind up saving 150,000 lives annually.  The World Health Organization this year called for worldwide sodium reductionin processed foods, plus consumer education on cutting the salt.

If you are trying to cut back on salt, you have to know where most of the salt is coming from.   In an effort to cut back on salt, many people quit adding salt themselves from the salt shaker, and also in any cooking they do at home.   However, while these efforts are to be applauded, they will only have a small impact on the amount of salt in their diet. 


Most all the salt in the American food supply is hidden in processed foods and in restaurant foods.  Without knowing this, and how to eliminate, efforts to cut the salt, can be futile.

The average American consumes about 3000-4000 mgs of sodium a day. This is far in excess of the Institutes of Medicines guidelines of 1200-1500 mgs day.  It is even far in excess of the Upper Limit of 2300 mgs/day they set. 

Of the 3000 - 4000 mgs/day, only about 5% of salt comes from what is added from the salt shaker and only another 5% comes from what is added during cooking at home.  Another 10-12% occurs naturally in the food.  The big problem is the more than 75% that comes from restaurant foods and processed foods.

Food manufacturers claim that people will not buy their food if they reduce the salt content.  But, this may only be  a passing phenomenon as scientific studies show people get accustomed to eating less salt in mere months, and then usually find their old foods too salty.

While it is difficult to control what happens in the kitchen  of a restaurant, we can all easily reduce the amount of salt we consume in packaged foods.  The simplest easy way to do this is to limit the amount of sodium "per serving"  in a product to no more than the amount of calories "per serving".  In other words, if a product has 200 calories per serving, the amount of sodium should not exceed 200 mgs.    Simple and easy!

If you are really watching your sodium, than I would even take it even a step further.  Limit the amount of sodium in mgs/serving to 1/2 the amount of calories/serving.  So, using the example above, if a product has 200 calories, the amount of sodium, per serving, should not exceed 100 mgs.

If you apply these guidelines, you will come to realize how much sodium is hidden in packaged products.    And, you will have a simple method for reducing the amount of sodium in any packaged, processed product you buy.


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