Hidden Salt

You may have thought foods like chips and pretzels were some of the worst offenders when it comes to our salt intake.  However, according to a new report, that commonly held belief has been turned upside down.  Well, almost.

Hidden salt exposed: Bread tops the list of worst offenders.

The findings, published this week in the CDC’s  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, states 65% of the salt Americans consume comes from store-bought foods, chips included.  What is making headlines this week, is not that known salty foods are among the top 10 offenders, but store-bought foods most of us don’t think of as salty foods are beating out those in the bright colored crinkly bags.  Surprisingly, Americans’ highest salt intake comes from bread and rolls. 

Here is the complete top 10 list of hidden salt offenders, accounting for approximately 44% of Americans’ overall sodium intake.

1. Bread and rolls (7.4% of overall sodium consumption);
2. Cold cuts and cured meats (5.1%);
3. Pizza (4.9%); 
4. Fresh and processed poultry (4.5%); 
5. Soups (4.3%);
6. Sandwiches, such as cheeseburgers (4.0%); 
7. Cheese (3.8%); 
8. Pasta mixed dishes, such as spaghetti with meat sauce (3.3%); 
9. Meat mixed dishes, such as meat loaf with tomato sauce (3.2%); and 
10. Savory snacks, such as chips and pretzels (3.1%).

If the list is misleading, CDC researchers say it is not because bread has more sodium than chips, but that bread is the single largest contributor to daily salt intake, as it is eaten several times a day.  Bottom line, we get more salt through the amount of bread we eat every day, as opposed to the occasional indulgence of savory snacks.

Oklahoma Heart Institute’s Dr. Raj Chandwaney points out, "This study emphasizes the over consumption of salt in the American diet.”  Dr. Chandwaney continues, “Sodium is omnipresent in most packaged foods.  Americans need to replace a significant proportion of their daily food intake with fresh fruits and vegetables to lower their total daily sodium intake to more appropriate levels."

The focus on this report is also important information when understanding our own heart health, especially when you consider the report's finding that 9 in 10 Americans are consuming too much salt.  Too much salt in our diets, or an average of 3,266 mg of salt per day (according to the report) versus the recommended 2,300 mg per day, can raise blood pressure and increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.   To better understand the impact of a variance that far from the recommended daily salt intake, the U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates reducing our sodium intake by 400 mg/day could save 28,000 lives and $7 billion in healthcare costs a year. 

Read the full CDC report here.

Written by: Amanda Armstrong, Source: U.S. Institute of Medicine, CDC