From Joan Salge Blake:

The Sodium Shakedown…salt

The recently released new Dietary Guidelines for Americans made a bold recommendation: The American public should starting ratcheting down the sodium in their diet to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and many individuals should consume a mere 1,500 milligrams (mg) or the amount found in 2/3 teaspoon of salt. Currently, Americans, on average, are consuming more than twice that amount, or over 3,400 mg of sodium daily.

Why all the fuss? Hypertension, better know as high blood pressure, is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, 2 out of the 3 leading causes of death in the United States. Americans’ lopsided dietary intake of too much sodium (which increases blood pressure) and too little potassium (which lowers blood pressure) is wrecking havoc with approximately 2/3 of individuals who either already have hypertension or pre-hypertension (they are on their way to getting high blood pressure).

Sodium and potassium aside, as you age, your blood pressure typically increases. With over 77 million Baby Boomers moving towards the senior citizen circuit, there is the potential for a lot of Americans with less than healthy blood pressure. The lower sodium recommendation of 1,500 mg applies to those who are 51 and older, and those of any age who are African American, currently have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. It is estimated that about half of the US population falls into this group.

So where’s all the sodium coming from in your diet? Believe it or not, only about 5 to 10% of the sodium in your diet comes from the salt that you add when cooking and/or shake on your meal when you are sitting down at the table. Rather, over 70% comes from processed foods, with the heavy hitters being yeast breads, chicken and chicken mixed dishes, and pizza in the diet .

The good news is that many food companies, such as Campbell’s, General Mills’, Heinz, and Kraft are committed to lowering the sodium in their products over the next several years.