The University of New Hampshire has been making recent strides towards a healthier campus. Replacing Crystal Light machines with water, moving the fruit to more accessible locations and promoting healthier options at all of their dining locations are just a few of their recent efforts, but perhaps the most noticeable change (as voiced by some upset students) has been the missing salt shakers. The nutrition and dining staff have simply relocated the shakers and placed them in more inconvenient places in hopes of lowering students sodium intake, and for good reason. It’s certainly no secret that Americans are consuming too much sodium, myself included. Have you fallen victim to the sodium spell? If you’re following a typical American diet, the odds aren’t in your favor.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines call for less than 2.300 mg of sodium per day, and even less (1,500 mg) for at risk groups. Most people exceed these recommendations on a regular basis, putting themselves at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke.
Processed foods contribute largely to our increased sodium intake. Eliminating your favorite box of crackers or cutting out pizza completely isn’t going to happen, but by identifying which foods we most commonly eat on a day to day basis we can start to make progress on lowering our intake of those items or swapping them out for something that can improve our health, instead of hurt it.
The Center for Disease Control conducted a study in 2008 that identified the foods most commonly eaten by Americans that are known to skyrocket this sodium intakes. Here they are, ranked in order from highest to lowest in contributing to overall sodium consumption on the typical American diet:
1. Breads and rolls
2. Cold cuts/ cured meats
8. Pasta dishes
9. Mixed meat dishes (meatballs, meatloaf)
10. Salty snacks (popcorn, chips, pretzels)
While many of the items here do not apply to those following a vegetarian diet, we’re still not in the clear. Depending on how strict of a vegetarian you are, breads, pizza, soups, cheese, and pasta dishes are just some of the unknown ways we might be getting more salt than recommended. It never hurts to check the label and make sure you’re not purchasing a total sodium-bomb. Choose lower sodium items when possible and always keep in mind that fresh fruits and veggies are always sodium free!