Americans Still Hooked on Salt

Nearly one-third of Americans have high blood pressure and most of us know an easy way to improve that number: ease up on salt. However a new Harvard study shows that in spite of better knowledge about the correlation of sodium intake to increased risk for heart disease and stroke, we still consume about the same amount of salt today as 50 years ago!

Since the 1980's nutritionists have recommended cutting back on salt to reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, but the average American consumes more salt today than we did 20 or 30 years ago. The main culprit is processed food. The American Medical Association estimates that cutting the amount of salt in processed foods by ½ could save 150,000 lives in the U.S. every year.

So what is the solution? People are advised to limit salt intake to under 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) per day. If you are in a high risk category for heart disease and hypertension-over 40, black, or have high- or borderline high blood pressure, you should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. Here are some tips to help cut the salt and keep the flavor:

  • Use fresh ingredients rather than processed whenever possible
  • Check labels for the amount of sodium per serving
  • Look for low-sodium, or no salt added products
  • Cook rice, pasta and hot cereals without adding salt
  • Minimize or eliminate rice, past, and cereal mixes which usually are loaded with sodium
  • Buy fresh, frozen or canned " no salt added" vegetables
  • Rinse canned foods such as beans or tuna to remove some of the salt
  • Use fresh meats, poultry, and fish rather than canned varieties
  • Select low sodium, low fat cheeses
  • Try salt free seasoning blends
  • Add lemon juice instead of salt to fish, chicken and vegetables
  • Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs to foods before serving
  • Leave the salt shaker off the table!

Public health experts say it is clear that the average American diet is heavy salted, usually in ways we do not even realize. Each of us needs to become more "salt-savvy" to minimize our personal risk, as well as the risk to our loved ones, for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Published on February 15, 2012.