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Shake the Salt Habit

Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems. But salt, or sodium chloride, is hard to avoid. It’s in just about every processed or packaged food in the supermarket aisle.

The American Medical Association (AMA) is concerned about the high rate of cardiovascular disease in the United States. It is urging food manufacturers and the government to help Americans shake the salt habit. Americans consume two to three times more sodium than is healthy.

Sources of salt

The dinner-table saltshaker isn’t the biggest source of sodium in the average American’s diet. The vast majority of the sodium comes from salt in processed and restaurant foods. The AMA wants the sodium in these foods to be cut at least in half within 10 years. It has urged the FDA to remove salt from the "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) category of food additives. That would give the FDA authority to regulate how much salt manufacturers can add to foods. The AMA also thinks food labels should be improved to help people more easily find out whether a food product is high in sodium.

Control your intake

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that healthy Americans have no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day—or about a teaspoon of salt. But people with health problems or risk factors for high blood pressure should check with their doctor about using less sodium.

According to the AHA, these are ways to keep your salt intake under control:

  • Eat mostly fresh, unprocessed foods.

  • When shopping, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added frozen and canned foods.

  • Perk up dishes with alternatives to salt, such as herbs, vinegar, spices, or even citrus fruits. For example, you might drizzle lime juice over fresh mango cubes or add slices of orange to a tossed salad.

  • Go easy on salty snacks, such as chips, popcorn, salted nuts, and pretzels.

  • Check the labels of baked products. Many contain baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), a significant source of sodium.