An analysis in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report from the CDC says that 89% of U.S. adults were consuming more salt than recommended between 2009-2012, citing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.
Men between the ages of 19-51 ate about 4,400 mg a day, while women consumed around 3,100 mg a day, the CDC says. Adults 51 and over had slightly lower numbers. About 90% of children of all ages exceeded their daily amounts of salt intake as well, with boys and girls 9-13 getting about 3,300 mg and 3,000 mg respectively, which is a big increase from the recommended 2,200 mg for that age group.
Again, it’s not like we’re all whipping out the salt shaker every time we face a piece of broccoli. The CDC says most of the sodium we consume is coming from processed foods and meals served in restaurants. You might not be aware of that fact, or have any way to find out how much sodium you’re getting.
“It’s very difficult for individuals to lower consumption on their own, because there’s so much sodium in everything they eat,” Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told NPR’s aptly named blog, The Salt.
Though many food companies have made an effort in the past few years to reduce sodium in their products, it’s not enough, Frieden says.
“Some companies have made significant progress, but across the whole industry we need to see steady reduction,” he says. “The bottom line is we want to put choice into consumers’ hands about putting it in, since you can’t take it out once it’s in there.”
Some of the saltiest products out there: Bread, deli meats, pizza, poultry, soups, cheese, pasta dishes, meat mixed dishes, and savory snacks like popcorn.
If you’re worried about your sodium intake, read the label when you can. If it’s a deli meat, well, just assume it’s chock-full of sodium. And for those living in or visiting New York City, you’ll soon be able to spot foods with high levels of sodium just by looking for the salt shaker warning labels that became a requirement for chain restaurants in the city in December.