We have a food problem in the United States. From frozen dinners and fried foods to processed snacks and condiments, Americans over-consume salt. It’s something that doctors warn adults about on a regular basis, but seldom do Americans take steps to reduce their sodium intake. New salt guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aim to crack down on salt intake.
By putting out these guidelines, the hope is that food manufacturers and restaurants reduce the amount of sodium in their foods over the next 2.5 years. Although the guidelines are voluntary, reducing the amount of sodium by 12% in commercially processed, packaged, and prepared foods is the goal. The reason for these guidelines is because sodium is a main staple in the Standard American Diet. In fact, over 70% of the total sodium intake for the average American comes from added sodium during food manufacturing.
Sodium In The United States
According to health surveys and medical research, the approximate daily consumption of sodium in America is about 3,400 milligrams (mg). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the years 2020-2025 says that the recommended daily allowance of sodium should be 2,300 mg for people aged 14 and up. The American Heart Association (AHA) applauded this decision, as excess sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Although it’s beneficial to educate the public about the dangers of consuming too much sodium, it’s not enough to stop people from overindulging. More than 4 out of 10 American adults have high blood pressure, with numbers increasing across minority populations. That’s not because people season their food with table salt. The problem is that the excess salt already exists in the packaged, processed, or restaurant foods people eat. Adding more table salt to the equation only worsens the problem.
The Guidelines Are Only Voluntary
The FDA is not enforcing food manufacturers or restaurants to lower the amount of sodium they add to food. The dietary guidelines are in place for the knowledge of the general public, but people easily exceed these guidelines, especially in America. For example, the new 2,300 mg of sodium per day guideline is about half of what the average American adult consumes daily. This explains the higher numbers of hypertension throughout the country. Unfortunately, there is no mandate that enforces the amount of sodium added to food.
The reality is that hundreds of thousands Americans die each year from chronic disease related to poor nutrition. Making food manufacturers and restaurants adhere to the newer sodium guidelines would be the best way to tackle this problem. It may not show positive results right away, but a gradual reduction over time would allow people’s palates to adapt to less sodium. Eating salty foods only makes people crave more salt, so reducing the amount of salt in food could potentially change eating habits.
The Next Step
Lowering a person’s sodium intake from 3,400 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day is not enough. According to the AHA, reducing an American adult’s sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day could prevent about 450,000 cases of heart disease. Additionally, this could save about $40 billion in healthcare costs over a 20-year period. Most of all, reducing sodium intake can help improve quality of life. Simple math makes it clear: reducing sodium intake can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. If people make the effort to adhere to the new guidelines, their health will benefit in the long run.