The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week issued final guidance to the food industry for voluntarily reducing sodium in processed, packaged and prepared foods.
The agency’s aim is to cut the average sodium intake by 12% – from 3,400 to 3,000 milligrams a day – over the next 2 ½ years.
Research shows that Americans consume 50% more sodium than recommended.
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“Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium can be bad for your health. Diets higher in sodium are associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart disease,” the FDA wrote on its website.
More than 70% of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged and prepared foods, and the FDA says that the agency is aiming to incrementally make more reductions in the future.
So, how can you reduce your salt intake?
The nation’s food supply contains too much sodium, and Americans who strive to consume less sodium can have a difficult time doing so.
Reading the “Nutrition Facts” label on packaging can help consumers make an informed decision, and Americans should get less than 100% of the daily value for sodium, or 2,300 milligrams, per day.
Twenty percent of the daily value or more of sodium per serving is considered high.
Food choices also matter, with about 40% of the sodium consumed by Americans coming from deli meat sandwiches, pizza, burritos and tacos, soups, savory snacks, poultry, pasta mixed dishes, burgers and egg dishes like omelets.
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Sodium in condiments can also add up.
Some common food additives, like monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, sodium nitrate and sodium benzoate, also contain sodium.
Sodium has multiple uses, including as a preservative, to control microbial growth and for flavor.
The FDA advises that individuals prepare their own food when possible, add flavor without sodium and buy fresh foods rather than processed varieties.
“Also, check the package on fresh meat and poultry to see if salt water or saline has been added,” it warned.
People are advised to wash their vegetables and rinse off sodium-containing canned foods before eating.
Reduced portion sizes also mean less sodium, and those who are eating out can split meals with friends, take part of their meals home or choose smaller meals.
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Asking for a meal to be prepared without table salt, that sauces and dressings be served “on the side” and if nutrition information is available when dining at a restaurant can also help.
The FDA said it hoped its guidance could have a “profound impact” on the health of millions of people.