April 05, 2012 / Michael M. Siegel, MD
Did you know that a majority of Americans consume nearly two to three times the recommended daily salt intake? This has become a significant health issue which has lead to rising cases of hypertension – a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. While many of us sprinkle a little salt on our food to give it extra flavor, the real culprits are processed foods and food prepared in restaurants where the salt is hidden to the naked eye.
Take, for example, a package of dehydrated onion soup mix. It comes in at a whopping 3,132 milligrams of sodium, but it is not something most people consider to be particularly unhealthy. Other items to look out for include processed cheeses, hot dogs, bacon, lunch meat, frozen meals, sauce and gravy mixes.
Less is usually best, so pay attention to nutrition labels. Consider that dietary guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day– that is about one teaspoonful. More and more restaurants are including nutrition information on their menus, so be sure to look at the sodium levels in addition to calories and fat.
Of course, our bodies do need salt to function normally, but only a tiny amount. If you keep track of your salt intake, you heart and blood pressure will benefit – an important note if you're age 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.