Salt in prepackaged foods

Being conscious of our salt intake is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Excess sodium in our diet leads to high blood pressure and is the leading factor of cardiovascular disease. To reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, the Food and Drug Administration has unveiled new guidelines to reduce salt in restaurant and packaged food. Part of the new guidelines entails cutting 1/3 of all salt in our prepared food.

More than 70 percent of a sodium intake comes from prepackaged foods. So even when we do not put the salt shaker on the table, we may still be consuming a tremendous amount of sodium. The Food and Drug Administration goal is to lower salt in packaged foods: we can choose to add our own salt if need be.

The typical adult shouldn’t have more than 2300 milligrams of salt per day (about 1 teaspoon). Due to the abundance and convenience of prepackaged foods we are consuming 3400 milligrams of sodium per day. There are national packaged food companies and chain restaurants that have taken the initiative to begin lowering the salt in their foods. By reading the food labels you can determine the amount of sodium in a particular food. Many chain restaurants will have available on request a nutritional label of the foods they serve.

Still, we know sodium does help our bodies. It aids in blood regulation, fluid maintenance and muscle contraction among other benefits. One has to remember that many nutrients are good in moderation. Excessive consumption of sodium will put us at high risk for heart disease and strokes.

 According to government figures, about half of the money a consumer pays for food, goes to eating outside the home. As consumers, it is our responsibility to be our own advocate: read food labels and order carefully in restaurants. No matter what the guidelines are from the Food and Drug Administration, we are ultimately responsible for our own health!

Michigan State University Extension has health and nutrition tips that help us maintain healthy and balanced lifestyles.

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