The Problem: Too Much Salt
Sodium is an essential mineral in our diet. Your kidneys need it to maintain a delicate balance with potassium in order to filter your bloodstream. However, eating too much sodium will alter that delicate balance and put your health at risk. Today, the average American consumes 3,400 mg of salt a day, far exceeding the recommended 2,300 mg/day. This over-consumption of salt causes hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is the leading risk factor of stroke, heart, failure and kidney disease. In fact, one-third of American adults have hypertension. Reducing sodium consumption of just 400 mg can save 28,000 deaths annually and $7 billion in health care expenditures.
Today’s food supply contains 35% more sodium per person than it did in the early 1990s. 77% of this excess sodium comes from the processed foods and restaurant industries. According to the CDC, more than 40% of sodium intake comes from these 10 categories of processed foods: breads, cold cuts, pizza, processed poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meatloaf, and salty snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn. A 2012 study of 29, 531 menu items served by the top 400 US restaurants (by sales) found that the average amount of sodium in a dish was 1,512 mg. Then take into consideration the fact that Americans dine out 5 times a week on average!
The reasons for this increased sodium consumption varies. First of all, it tastes good. Secondly, it helps with food preservation and safety, although there is evidence that this might be exaggerated. Some studies have shown that if we gradually lower the nationwide level of sodium in food and beverage products, then people will become accustomed to eating less salt. Unfortunately, many consumers associate low-sodium claims with low flavor, which can negatively impact sales. However, when sodium and other unhealthy ingredients are added into our food before we even buy it, it can be difficult to make healthy choices. Furthermore, labels on products sold in grocery stores can be confusing and most restaurants aren’t even required to list nutrition facts.
There is increasing pressure to reduce sodium in the food supply. Many companies, restaurants, and governments have been proactive in creating strategies to lower sodium in their products. For example, Campbell Soup Company ad Kraft Foods have joined in the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), which has set voluntary targets for reduced salt levels in 62 categories of packaged foods and 25 categories of restaurant foods. In 2010, Taco bell reduced sodium by 20% in US products. And New York City became the first city in the nation to require chain restaurants to post warning labels next to menu items that contain high amounts of sodium. Still, the food and beverage industries have a long way to go before addressing the increased demands for healthy food products.
In the meantime, we suggest reducing your sodium by enjoying Doc’s Salt Free Hot Sauce on everything! 😉