Monday, January 10, 2011

Your Sodium Footprint

You have one, and it’s probably bigger and badder than you think.

Believe it or not, it’s hard to make a dent in sodium intake. Cutting back on calories is one thing—you can see your portion size. Cutting back on something that doesn’t have any calories, and that’s also mostly invisible, is something else. In fact, 77 percent of the sodium we consume isn’t out of the salt shaker—it’s in the prepared foods we buy in cans, boxes, fast food bags and restaurants.

Here’s more scary news. A recent report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (just the name of the publication should get your attention), points out that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. adults limit their sodium intake to recommended levels (between 1,500 and 2,300 mg of sodium per day). The average adult consumes 3,466 mg of sodium per day. To top it off, we only need between 180 mg and 500 mg a day to keep our bodies working properly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say effects of excessive sodium include increased rates of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Because nearly 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to high blood pressure, decreasing sodium intake could prevent thousands of deaths annually. It’s estimated that cutting back even one-half teaspoon a day could save the U.S. $24 billion a year in health care costs.

If you think you’re not consuming too much sodium, keep a list for a few days. Note the sodium per serving size and jot it down. Even if you never pick up the salt shaker, we think you’ll be surprised. Let us know what you discover.

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