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It’s official, you’re eating way too much salt


Photo: Unsplash/Andre Robillard
Photo: Unsplash/Andre Robillard

The Food and Drug Administration has been making some bold moves lately. Not only are they giving nutrition labels a makeover with calories in a bigger font and forcing manufacturers to call out sugar servings for the first time ever, now they are lowering the amount of sodium in the recommended American diet.

The FDA announced the move today, outlining its 10-year plan to lower Americans’ daily sodium consumption from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg.

How? By convincing the food industry to use less salt.

“While a majority of Americans reports watching or trying to reduce added salt in their diets, the deck has been stacked against them. The majority of sodium intake comes from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker,” the FDA states. And that includes lots of natural prepared foods brands, too. Ever looked at the label on a box of cereal or a bag of kale chips or even a veggie burger? Ouch.

The salt-curbing guidelines are voluntary but some megabrands, like Nestle and Mars, are welcoming the change, FoodDive reports. And several companies—Campbell Soup (parent company of Bolthouse Farms), General Mills (which includes Amy’s, Cascadian Farms, and Epic), and Kraft (which includes the Back to Nature brand)—have already cut some salt in anticipation of the guidelines, which have been in the works since 2011, according to Reuters.

The majority of sodium intake comes from processed and prepared foods, not the salt shaker.

Why now? The process sped up last year, when a lawsuit filed by The Center for Science in the Public Interest claimed the FDA failed to act on a decade-old petition for salt reduction in the U.S. food supply. The agency had until today to do something about it and, well, they did.

The big problem is this: “Americans consume almost 50 percent more sodium than what most experts recommend. One in three individuals has high blood pressure, which has been linked to diets high in sodium and is a major risk factor cause of heart disease and stroke,” the agency states, adding that when you look at data on African Americans, the high blood pressure rate climbs to one-in-two.

How to tell if something has too much salt? The amount of sodium in milligrams should be equal to or less than the calories per serving.

An easy way to stay on track, sodium-wise? The (super-easy) 1:1 rule: The amount of sodium in milligrams should be equal to or less than the calories per serving.

With these new sodium guidelines, the government has now addressed two big public health issues in a short amount of time: first sugar, then salt. So, okay, FDA, what’s next? We happen to have some ideas.

Want a refresher on how to read food labels? Check out five common terms on labels and what they actually mean. Then, find out why Kind Bar snacks had a bone to pick with the FDA.