SIOUX FALLS, SD - The next time you eat out and ask to hold the ketchup and the mustard, you might also want to hold the salt.
That's at least what the federal government is suggesting. Health officials say Americans consume far too much sodium. So just how much is too much?
New dietary guidelines
say we should all cut our daily sodium intake in half. If you think you're not getting a lot of salt, just take a closer look.
“The salt shaker is not the problem in terms of the amount of sodium in the American diet. Most of the sodium is found in canned, processed and packaged foods and restaurant meals,” Avera Heart Hospital Dietitian Joanne Shearer said.
Canned soups, especially chili, are loaded with the flavor enhancer.
“Typically about 800 to 900 milligrams per serving in a can of soup. And when you're thinking about the new dietary guidelines for your whole day of 1,500 milligrams of sodium, you can see how that gobbles up at least half of your sodium intake,” Shearer said.
The new guidelines recommend the 1,500 milligrams, or around a half teaspoon, to anyone with health problems, like high blood pressure, and to those 51 and older.
For everyone else, it recommends 2,300 milligrams.
But right now Americans consume about 2 teaspoons every single day.
“It will take a while, gradually, to start adapting to a lower sodium diet. And that's what people can do at home, is just start by making small changes here and there and cutting down on the sodium,” Shearer said.
This meal, which is smaller than some portions you'd order at a restaurant, is full of sodium.
It contains 1,500 milligrams, the recommended daily amount for some.
Oatmeal, toast and milk has about as much sodium as you'd find in a salt packet.
A large bagel has 400 milligrams.
But pancake mix is even worse. Three small flapjacks could add up to more than 500 milligrams of sodium.
So why does your salt intake matter? Too much of it is a health risk for your heart.
“High blood pressure is a risk for heart disease. And so any effort at cutting sodium in the diet is going to have a big impact on reducing heart disease in this country. And again that's the number one killer in the US: heart disease,” Shearer said.
Last month Wal-Mart pledged not to cut back salt from food on its shelves. Kraft Foods and Campbell Soup Company also have plans to lower sodium content over the next few years. That way consumers don't notice the change in taste.
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