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Controlling Your Salt Intake

Nearly 90% of adults consume more salt than U.S. dietary guidelines recommend. Recently, a new study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 in the United States are eating are eating an average of 3,387 mg per day, way over the 2,300 mg daily limit recommended by the federal dietary guidelines. Eating too much sodium, a major component of salt, can contribute to high blood pressure. We've known for a long time that it is a major risk for people as they age and contributes to the development of heart disease and other health issues.  Now we realize that overuse of salt also has serious effects on children's health. The new study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 15 percent of the children in the study had elevated or high blood pressure! The incidence of elevated or high blood pressure is most prevalent among children who are overweight. The study found that for every 1,000 mg of sodium an overweight child consumed, blood pressure response was seven times greater than for a child of normal weight.  The study included a survey of 6,235 children, aged from 8 to 18 years old who gave detailed reports about their diets. Researchers measure blood pressure and weight. The results were published in the journal Pediatrics. Another study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that middle-aged men are eating on approximately 54% more salt now than in the early 1970s; while women consume a whopping 67% more! It's no wonder that the importance of maintaining salt intake has gained focus for a healthier diet. In fact, the American Heart Association now endorses a 1,500-mg sodium limit for all adults, that's less than half the intake of a person living in the United States -- adult or child! This is easier said than done, lowering your intake of salt means more than using the salt shaker less! Studies indicate that three-quarters of the salt we consume comes from processed food or dining out. The Center for Disease Control and prevention also found that 44% of salt intake in the United States can be accounted for by the consumption of ten popular foods. This report was based on food surveys that included 7,227 Americans, including more than 2,500 children and teens in 2007-08. Those 10 foods are:
  • Bread and rolls, 7.4%
  • Cold cuts/cured meats, 5.1%
  • Pizza, 4.9%
  • Fresh and processed poultry, 4.5%
  • Soups, 4.3%
  • Sandwiches like cheeseburgers, 4%
  • Cheese, 3.8%
  • Pasta dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce, 3.3%
  • Meat dishes like meatloaf with tomato sauce, 3.2%
  • Snacks, including chips, pretzels, popcorn and puffs, 3.1%
Most of these foods are purchased already prepared at a store or eaten while dining out: in fact, 75% of the sodium we consume in a day comes from food we don’t prepare at home. When cooking at home, try using different herbs in place of salt. For savory foods, try cayenne or white pepper. A mixture of garlic, lemon zest or juice, thyme, paprika, and onion works wonderfully with chicken.  Fresh, chopped basil is terrific with tomatoes, and olive oil!  The goal is to add enough flavor so your food is savory and tasteful without the salt!  If you're not sure where to start, there are plenty of prepared salt replacement mixes you can purchase at your local grocery store. You'll be healthier and gain a whole new way of enjoying the flavors of your food!  

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