Need to cut back on salt? Don't start with the shaker

May 15, 2017 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Need to cut back on salt? Don't start with the shaker

Americans need to do more than stop reaching for the salt shaker if they want to cut back on the amount of sodium in their diets, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Only a small fraction of sodium in most people's diets in the U.S. comes from salt added at the table, researchers found. The majority comes from manufacturing processes and what's added to foods during cooking at restaurants.

To determine the sources of salt in people's diets, the researchers recruited 450 adults from Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Palo Alto, California between 2013 and 2014.

The participants were interviewed to determine everything they ate over four days. They were also seen in clinics, and gave researchers a plastic bag containing the same amount of salt they added when eating foods.

The average amount of sodium in people's daily diets was 3,501 milligrams.

Some groups had more sodium in their diets than others. For example, men ate more sodium overall than women. Black or Asian participants tended to add more salt to their food than Hispanics. Also, people with lower levels of education tended to consume more sodium than those with higher levels.

Majority of sodium comes from outside the home

For all groups, sodium added during the manufacturing process was the leading source in the diet.

The researchers found that 71 percent of sodium in the participants' diets came from restaurant meals or processed foods. Another 14 percent occurred naturally in food.

About 6 percent of sodium came from what people added during meal preparation, and 5 percent came from what they added while they were eating.

Less than 1 percent of sodium came from dietary supplements and water sources.

The findings highlight the importance of reading the nutrition labels in grocery stores and choosing carefully in restaurants.

Related: How to cut sodium when dining out

The study also reinforces the 2010 Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to reduce sodium in sodium in commercially packaged and prepared foods.

The current recommendation is that people get less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, which is the amount in about 1 teaspoon of salt.

Source: Circulation, online May 8, 2017.

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