10 Foods Largely Responsible for 9 of 10 Americans Eating Too Much Salt, New CDC Report Finds

Deli Sandwich, Meat, Chips - High Salt FoodsA new report issued February 7 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has found that 9 out of 10 Americans eat too much salt, and 10 food types are responsible for 44 percent of daily salt intake.

According to the new report, “About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.” “Too much sodium increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure often leads to heart disease and stroke. More than 800,000 people die each year from heart disease, stroke and other vascular diseases, costing the nation $273 billion health care dollars in 2010.”

The CDC’s report states that the average person consumes about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day (not including any salt added at the table), which is more than twice the recommended limit for about half of Americans and 6 of every 10 adults. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1,500 milligrams per day for people aged 51 and older, African Americans, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Which Foods are the Culprits?

The new report finds that 10 common food types provide 44 percent of the salt in daily diets. These 10 foods include:

  1. Breads and rolls,
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats such as 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,
  9. Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce, and
  10. Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn.

Even though some of these foods, such as bread, are not commonly thought of as high in salt content, nevertheless because they typically are eaten several times a day, they account for a high percentage of daily salt intake, according to the report. “Foods that otherwise seem healthy may have high levels of sodium (e.g., cottage cheese and turkey breast luncheon meat),” the report states.

In addition, the report finds that “Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants.” In fact, “65% of sodium eaten comes from food bought at retail stores, … and about 25% comes from restaurants,” according to the report.

The report points out, however, that not all processed foods of the same type are equal in their salt content. “Brands of foods matter: Different brands of the same foods may have different sodium levels. For example, sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by as much as 840 milligrams (mg) per serving,” the CDC states.

Tips on How to Cut Down on Salt

Here are some tips offered by the CDC on simple ways to cut down on excessive salt in your diet:

  • “Choose to purchase healthy options and talk with your grocer or favorite restaurant about stocking lower sodium food choices.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label while shopping to find the lowest sodium options of your favorite foods.
  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and frozen fruits and vegetables without sauce.
  • Limit processed foods high in sodium.
  • When eating out, request lower sodium options.
  • Support initiatives that reduce sodium in foods in cafeterias and vending machines.”

The new report, entitled, “Where’s the sodium? There’s too much in many common foods,” is found in the February 2012 issue of Vital Signs, a monthly publication by the CDC.

The CDC has also provided a Fact Sheet in PDF Format with information from the report.

News Release by the CDC

Following is a News Release issued by the CDC about the new report:

For Immediate Release: February 7, 2012
Contact: CDC Division of News and Electronic Media
(404) 639-3286

Nine in 10 U.S. adults get too much sodium every day

Main sources of sodium include many common foods

Nearly all Americans consume much more sodium than they should, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Most of the sodium comes from common restaurant or grocery store items.

The latest Vital Signs report finds that 10 types of foods are responsible for more than 40 percent of people’s sodium intake. The most common sources are breads and rolls, luncheon meat such as deli ham or turkey, pizza, poultry, soups, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes such as meat loaf, and snack foods such as potato chips, pretzels and popcorn.  Some foods that are consumed several times a day, such as bread, add up to a lot of sodium even though each serving is not high in sodium.

“Too much sodium raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “These diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $273 billion in health care costs.”

The report notes that the average person consumes about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day, not including any salt added at the table, which is more than twice the recommended limit for about half of Americans and 6 of every 10 adults.  The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.  The recommendation is 1,500 milligrams per day for people aged 51 and older, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, and African Americans.

Key points in the Vital Signs Report:

  • Ten types of foods account for 44 percent of dietary sodium consumed each day.
  • 65 percent of sodium comes from food sold in stores.
  • 25 percent of sodium comes from meals purchased in restaurants.
  • Reducing the sodium content of the 10 leading sodium sources by 25 percent would lower total dietary sodium by more than 10 percent and could play a role in preventing up to an estimated 28,000 deaths per year.

Reducing daily sodium consumption is difficult since it is in so many of the foods we eat.  People can lower their sodium intake by eating a diet rich in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables without sauce, while limiting the amount of processed foods with added sodium.  Individuals can also check grocery food labels and choose the products lowest in sodium.  CDC supports recommendations for food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the amount of sodium added to foods.

“We’re encouraged that some food manufacturers are already taking steps to reduce sodium,” said Dr. Frieden. “Kraft Foods has committed to an average 10 percent reduction of sodium in their products over a two year period, and dozens of companies have joined a national initiative to reduce sodium.  The leading supplier of cheese for pizza, Leprino Foods, is actively working on providing customers and consumers with healthier options.  We are confident that more manufacturers will do the same.”

To learn more about ways to reduce sodium, visit www.cdc.gov/salt.   For more information on heart disease and stroke, visit http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/.  Reducing sodium is also a key component of the Million Hearts™ initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.  To learn how to reduce sodium using the DASH eating plan, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/.

Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators. These are cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, asthma, and food safety.

More Information

See related HelpingYouCare™ reports on:

Eat Less Salt & More Potassium to Live Longer, New Study Suggests

New Study Fuels Controversy Over Benefits of Salt Reduction in Diet & in Processed Foods

AMA urges immediate FDA action to reduce excess salt in food

Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH: the DASH Eating Plan.

See also the HelpingYouCare™ resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:


Copyright © 2012 Care-Help LLC, publisher of HelpingYouCare™.


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