Tag Archives: Salt

Tackling high sodium content in foods

Reaction to the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement a couple of weeks ago that it would work to reduce salt in Americans’ diets sparked a lot of discussion about how far the government should go. For now, the FDA is working on developing plans that would allow manufacturers to comply voluntarily, and many were already taking steps to reduce salt.

Have sodium and food reversed roles?

The average person only needs about 1,500 mg. of sodium daily. The average American consumes almost twice that much.  American’s have known to cut back on salt consumption for decades, but the majority of salt consumed is not added at the table by consumers. According to a story posted by The New York Times, about 75 percent of salt comes from processed foods. Salt is added to foods by manufacturers and by restaurants as a flavor enhancer. A government-commissioned report reveals that perhaps 100,000 premature deaths a year are from sodium overload and states that salt amounts in some grocery and restaurant foods should be declared unsafe.

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, posted alarming amounts of sodium in some restaurant foods:

  • Chili’s Jalapeno Smokehouse Burger, with Jalapeno Ranch dressing and a side of fries has 6,460 mg of sodium — more than four day’s worth in one meal or almost three teaspoons.
  • Chili’s black bean soup has 1,480 mg. of sodium — almost an entire day’s worth for many people.

Such high sodium content in foods makes me wonder if salt’s purpose is no longer merely to enhance the flavor of food. It’s as if salt has become the primary flavor to mask a lack of flavor in many foods.

Advertisements

Reducing America’s salt intake

In addition to sugar, another white granular substance used to enhance the flavor of food is in the news – it’s salt. Many people have cut-back or quit adding salt to prepared foods where possible and limited their consumption of processed foods high in sodium. But according to yesterday’s Washington Post, the average American is still consuming almost twice as much sodium as the recommended daily limit, with 77% of sodium coming from processed foods.

FDA’s ten-year plan

The story also reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is beginning an initiative that will require manufacturers to gradually reduce the amount of sodium added to processed foods over a 10-year span.  This would allow Americans to become accustomed to the taste of foods as salt is gradually decreased.

Recommended sodium limits

To reduce your risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended limiting sodium to 1,500 mg daily. The average american consumes 3,435 mg daily. To put things in greater perspective, a teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Campbells Healthy Request chicken noodle soup has 120 calories and 410 mg sodium per 1-cup serving, almost a third of the 1,500 mg daily limit.

Sales for many processed foods would likely suffer without a gradual reduction in salt, so I don’t expect this to be an easy task for the FDA, manufacturers or consumers. Even with a gradual reduction in sodium, some foods may never be palatable without salt. There’s the question of whether inherently salty foods like pickles would need to comply. I’m wondering about olives. Change isn’t going to be easy, but change we must.