Nutrition-wise blog

Shaking the salt habit

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. March 12, 2010

Take a moment to think about your dining habits. Do you salt your food? How often do you eat out? Are meals at home out of a can or box? If you answered yes to two of these three questions, chances are you're getting too much salt.

You're not alone. Most Americans eat too much salt — close to twice as much as they need, in fact.

You watch your calorie and fat intake to control your weight and improve your health. Why ignore salt? Lowering your salt intake can help lower your blood pressure and your risk of cardiovascular disease. For some individuals — those over age 40 and those of African-American heritage — a low-sodium diet may be especially important.

A recent article in the "New England Journal of Medicine" looked at the potential impact of reducing salt intake. The report found that if Americans cut their salt intake by 3 grams a day, new cases of heart disease, stroke and heart attack would significantly drop — as would the number of deaths. The authors estimate that these changes could save between $10 billion and $24 billion in health care costs annually. In light of this, many experts are calling on food manufacturers and restaurants to lower the amount of salt in the foods they sell.

A number of countries have already placed regulations on the salt content of processed foods. Is it time for the United States to put such regulations in place too? Some food companies have voluntarily reduced the sodium in their foods. Although the reduction is a step in the right direction, sodium content of many processed foods is still high.

Are you in favor of more strict regulations to make foods lower in salt? How would you feel about a ban on high-salt meals in restaurants, similar to what some cities and states did with trans fat? Do you pay attention to the amount of salt in your diet? If food manufacturers and restaurants lower the salt content of food, would that be a selling point for you?

Interested in your input,

Katherine

Mar. 12, 2010