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Health Team

Packaged food, eating out elevate sodium intake

Posted June 28

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration most Americans love their food with plenty of salt.

The average American gets about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which doctors say is too much—the recommended amount of sodium is only 2,300 milligrams daily.

Even if you just put down the salt shaker at home, it's not going to solve your sodium problem.

"Most people's sodium intake comes from packaged and restaurant foods," said Cleveland Clinic's dietician Lindsay Malone. "So, even though we might think of using less of the salt shaker as the most important thing, really the most important thing is getting away from those packaged foods."

Malone says a high sodium diet increases your risk of developing high blood pressure and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are the two leading causes of death in the United States.

The FDA recently asked the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium content in processed and prepared foods. The move is aimed at both food packaging companies as well as restaurant chains.

Malone says the best step forward is for people to stay away from the "salty six"—the biggest sodium offenders in the American diet.

The six include pizza, poultry, deli meats, canned soups, breads and sandwiches. Malone says those foods can be replaced with lower sodium options.

"Choosing to make homemade soups instead of getting the canned soups, or baking a whole chicken instead of going to the deli counter and getting honey-smoked chicken breast," Malone said. "The other thing you can do is make your own pizza at home so you have more control over the ingredients."

If you're dining out, choose simply prepared meals like grilled salmon, chicken with steamed vegetables or a salad with fresh herbs, oil and vinegar. In most restaurants, you can always ask for items to be prepared with no salt.

You can also find other natural flavor alternatives to salt, such as cooking with onions, garlic, ginger, citrus zest and juice from lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit.

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