Medical Minute 7-27: The Trouble With Salt

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

A little here…a little there…
Salt permeates the food we eat. In the last year, many agencies recommended lowering the daily allowance for sodium to just 15 hundred milligrams a day - that's equal to just a teaspoon, so, beware of foods with sneaky salt. For instance…a slice of Kraft singles cheese contains 277 milligrams of salt. Two slices of Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel equals 380 milligrams. A tablespoon of Heinz ketchup has 190 milligrams, Campbell's chicken noodle soup has a whopping 940 milligrams per serving. Even Kellogg's raisin bran…has 350 milligrams per serving.

"Even foods that taste sweet that you might not think have salt have a high degree of sodium," said Alanna Morrison, Ph.D.

We know it's bad for the heart, but sodium is now also linked to kidney disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and dementia. No salt doesn't mean no flavor. Chef Jamie Zelko gets tasty food by blending flavors. This low -salt white fish gets a boost with white asparagus and a tomato-pineapple marmalade.

"I just added a little salt to the marmalade and that's it. Very clean, fresh flavors."

And here's good news: Government agencies are now asking manufacturers to lower sodium in their foods.

"The American Heart Association, the Centers of Disease Control are on board; the Institute of Medicine. They can't ignore that - so I think they're going to have to do something."

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.

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BACKGROUND: According to the Center for Disease Control, heart attack and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death in the United States, and excessive salt intake has proven to be a major contributor to both. The current dietary guidelines recommend that adults should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. However, the consumption of 1,500 mg is highly recommended for certain population groups. This recommendation applies to nearly half of the U.S. population.

THOSE AT RISK: People who are 51 years of age or older, African Americans, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.
TIPS: Surprisingly, table salt makes up about 5% of salt intake. It’s the hidden salt that is consumed in restaurant meals and packaged grocery store products that sneak up on Americans. To reduce your sodium intake:
• Choose foods that have the "low in sodium" label.
• Start reading the “Nutrition Facts” label when shopping. Compare the percentage of sodium in one product to another.
• Add in high-potassium foods like, fruits and vegetables, to meals that are high in sodium.
• When going out to eat, ask for a recommended low-sodium entrée.
• Before you add salt to your meal, taste it. If it's flavorful, put the salt-shaker down.

ACTION: The Center for Science in the Public Interest has urged the FDA and USDA to set limits on salt in packaged and restaurant foods. Also, the Institute of Medicine reported that national action is imperative to reduce sodium intake. According to IOM, it's becoming a serious public health problem that is costing the nation thousands of lives and billions in health care costs each year. (SOURCE: www.cspinet.org and www.cdc.gov)

For More Information, Contact:

Dr. Alanna Morrison
Associate Professor
UTHealth
(713)500-9913


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