Community Wellness: National Nutrition Month: Salty Diet

March 16, 2017
Lisa Randall, INHS Community Wellness Clinical Coordinator
salt shaker

Why is salt such an issue?

Almost one-third of American adults have high blood pressure and another 30 percent have pre-hypertension.  A very modest decrease in the amount of salt, hardly detectable in the taste of food, can have dramatic health benefits. Lowering salt intake by only 3 grams (about half a teaspoon) could prevent as many as 92,000 deaths nationwide each year. There would be fewer than 120,000 new cases of heart disease. Strokes would be cut by 66,000; heart attacks by 100,000. (NIH Medline Plus Spring- Summer 2010).

Where does sodium in our diet come from?

salty graph
  Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1991 Aug;10(4):383-393.

That's right; most of the sodium we consume is from processed, packaged, and prepared food, including foods from restaurants. There is little sodium in whole raw fruit or vegetables, or unprocessed meats. There is about 120 mg in a cup of milk and cheese (due to processing) has from 175-500 mg per ounce. Unprocessed meat has 60-70 mg per 3 ounce serving. 

How much sodium do we need?

salt shaker
Yep, you read it correctly; we only NEED about 180 mg/day. 

  nutrition label

In general, if a food has a label it is a processed. On a nutrition facts label, how often do you see 0 for the amount of sodium? Is there a correlation? Sodium is used for many reasons in processed foods, for flavor enhancement, it may decrease cooking time, it may help foods maintain color, it helps maintain the texture of the food being cooked. As a consequence, foods that are pre-prepared have more sodium, especially those highly processed and those from restaurants. From the pie chart above, home cooking accounts for roughly 5% of our sodium intake.

Where is the most sodium coming from?

Here is the American Heart Association's list of the six foods that add the most salt to our diet:

  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Pizza
  • Soup
  • Breads and rolls
  • Chicken
  • Burritos and tacos

Here are some ideas of where the other >3400 mg might come from:

  • Applebee's Classic Burger 1100 mg
  • Applebee's Quesadilla Burger 3340 mg
  • Burger King's Whopper with cheese 1100 mg
  • McDonald's Quarter Pounder with cheese 1110 mg
  • SuperSonic Bacon Dbl. Cheeseburger 1660 mg
  • Arby's Classic Roast Beef sandwich, no sauce 970 mg
  • Denny's Club Sandwich 2180 mg
  • Jimmy John's Totally Tuna on wheat 1770 mg
  • Pita Pit Dagwood Pita 1855 mg 

To find out more, visit: /. INHS Community Wellness also offers workshops and webinars on ways to live healthier: view course listings here .  

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