Sodium Levels Remain High in Popular Foods
Study finds little progress in reducing sodium levels of common processed and restaurant foods since 2005.
Most Americans consume far more salt than is recommended by experts, contributing to increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. That’s why organizations like the American Heart Association recommend that we cut back our salt consumption to no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. By reducing the amount of sodium contained in foods and making a conscious effort to consume less salt on a daily basis, we can help protect our hearts and overall health. But according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, sodium levels remain high in popular foods, making it difficult to make headway in lowering salt consumption nationwide.
This study looked at our top five sources of sodium, which include bread, cold cuts, pizza, poultry and soups. Some of these foods were found at supermarkets like Whole Foods and Walmart, while others came from popular fast food restaurants—Arby’s, Burger King, McDonald’s and so on. After obtaining nutritional information from either labels or online listings, researchers found that on average between 2005 and 2011, the sodium content in 402 processed foods declined by about 3.5%, while the sodium content in 78 fast-food restaurant products increased by just under 3%. Some products, however, cut back on sodium levels during this period by as much as one-third, while others increased by 30%. Interestingly, smoked bacon had the most sodium among the food categories included in this study, followed by Caesar salad dressing.
Experts are disappointed by these findings given significant efforts to reduce sodium consumption nationwide. Reductions in sodium levels of both processed and restaurant foods are inconsistent and slow, and researchers believe that we need stronger governmental action to see any meaningful changes in sodium consumption. If we want Americans to cut back on salt intake to 1,500 mg. a day (equivalent to less than one teaspoon of salt), we not only need to encourage the public to eat healthier but we also need to reduce sodium levels in foods across the board.
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