World Salt Awareness Week
Most of the sodium we consume each day is “hidden” in packaged and restaurant foods – even foods that don’t taste particularly salty.
This year's World Salt Awareness Week (February 29–March 6) encourages us to look out for those hidden sources of salt, especially in packaged and restaurant foods. Salt, such as regular table salt, is made up of two elements, sodium and chloride. Too much salt in your diet can raise your blood pressure, which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. About 90% of Americans eat too much sodium.1
What Is a Safe Amount of Sodium?
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Yet, the average sodium intake for Americans age two and older is more than 3,400 mg per day.2
Why Are People Eating So Much Salt?
Even for individuals who monitor their health and diet, it can be difficult to reduce salt intake. Some foods can contribute a lot of dietary sodium even if they don't taste very salty, not because they are particularly high in sodium, but because they are eaten so frequently. In addition, sodium content in different brands of the same food can vary significantly. For example, the amount of sodium in a can of chicken noodle soup may vary by as much as 840 milligrams (mg) per serving.3
What You Can Do
Learn where sodium hides. More than 40% of the sodium we get each day comes from just 10 types of food:3
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Fresh and processed poultry
- Pasta Dishes
- Meat mixed dishes, such as meatloaf with tomato sauce
- Snacks, such as chips, pretzels and popcorn
Eat smart when eating out. About a quarter of the sodium we get each day comes from restaurant foods, including fast food.
- Many chain restaurants offer nutritional information on their website. You can also search more than 150,000 restaurant foods on MenuStat to compare the sodium content of different restaurant meals.
- Scan the menu for items labeled “low sodium” or ask your server for more information about how much salt is added to your meal.
- Ask that no salt be added to your food.
- Ask for dressings and sauces on the side so you can control how much is added to your meal.
Be a sodium-savvy shopper. Most—about two thirds—of the sodium we eat comes from packaged or restaurant foods. Luckily, you have the power to purchase lower sodium foods. Follow these tips to make wise choices:
- Check the label and choose foods lower in sodium. The food label will tell you how many milligrams of sodium are in a serving size. Learn more about how to understand and use the Nutrition Facts label.
- Compare brands. Different brands of the same food (i.e., tomato sauce) can vary in sodium content. Compare and choose the lower sodium brand.
- When available, buy low sodium, lower sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of products. Talk to your grocer about lower sodium products and ask that the store stock lower sodium foods.
- Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce), or no-salt added canned vegetables.
Cook healthfully at home. Preparing your meals at home gives you control over the amount of salt you consume each day.
- Season your meals with spices, herbs, or lemon juice instead of salt.
- Eat more foods with potassium; research shows that foods low in sodium and high in potassium can help reduce blood pressure. Examples include bananas, dried apricots, spinach, low- or no-fat yogurt, beans other than green beans, and potatoes.
- Don't know where to start? Search hundreds of heart-healthy recipes that are lower in sodium at the Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Resource Center on the Million Hearts® website.
Small changes can have a big effect. Researchers estimate that reducing sodium intake by just 400 mg per day, could avert 28,000 deaths and save 7 billion health care dollars each year.4
What CDC Is Doing
Sodium reduction is a major part of the Million Hearts® campaign, a national initiative that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services co-lead this effort.
CDC is also working to lower sodium intake at the community level through the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program. This effort aims to increase access to and accessibility of lower sodium food options, to reduce sodium intake, and to continue to build practice-based evidence around effective population-based strategies to reduce sodium consumption at the community level.
- Jackson, SL, Coleman King, SM, Zhao, L, Cogswell, ME. (2016). Prevalence of Excess Sodium Intake in the United States–NHANES, 2009-2012.MMWR; 64(52); 1393-7.
- Agricultural Research Service. Table 1. Nutrient Intakes from Food and Beverages[64 KB]. What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) 2011–2012.
- Vital Signs: Where's the Sodium? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Accessed 2/17/16.
- Bibbins-Domingo K, Chertow GM, Coxson PG, Moran A, Lightwood JM, Pletcher MJ, et al. Projected effect of dietary salt reductions on future cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med 2010;362(7):590–9.