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February 2016

Too Much Salt Still an Issue in U.S. Diets

It’s better for your health if you cut back on the amount of salt in your diet. That’s been the advice from health experts for a number of years, but the message apparently hasn’t gotten through, the CDC says.

Saltshaker on table

More than 90% of children and 89% of adults eat more salt (sodium) each day than is recommended. The amount of salt consumed has held steady for the last decade, the CDC says.

But the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January, advise no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day for most adults. That is about a teaspoon of salt.

"Nearly all Americans, regardless of age, race or gender, consume more salt than is recommended for a healthy diet," says Sandra Jackson, Ph.D., an epidemiologist with the CDC.

Health effects

Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, and lead to heart disease, Dr. Jackson says.

What makes it tough to cut back is that much of the salt in the average diet is “hidden.” More than three-quarters of the salt Americans eat is found in packaged and processed foods, and in restaurant food. It’s in foods like chocolate chip cookies or bagels, items that you wouldn’t easily identify as “salty.”

What to do

One step toward healthier eating is to read food package labels carefully. Choose foods that are lower in salt.

Another step is to make more meals at home, using fresh ingredients where possible. Include fruits, vegetables, fiber, potassium, and low-fat dairy products.

"One of the easiest ways to reduce our salt intake is to eat more home-cooked foods using less-processed products," says Samantha Heller, a dietitian in New York.

 

Learn more about a heart-healthy diet.

 

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