Hold the bread? CDC warns of excessive sodium in U.S. diets

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About nine of every 10 Americans eat more salt than is recommended, and Public Enemy No. 1 is bread -- not junk food, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Salt, or sodium chloride, is a sneaky ingredient, ending up in many food products that don’t sport the distinctive tang of a potato chip. But just because the sodium intake per slice of bread or roll may be lower than a serving of potato chips doesn’t mean that the salt isn’t piling up. Americans love to chomp down on bread -- and they frequently indulge.

“Too much sodium raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a prepared statement. “These diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $273 billion in health care costs.”

According to the CDC, the average person consumes about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day, well above the current daily guideline of about 2,300 milligrams, or about a teaspoon of salt. People 51 and older are urged to eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium; the same ceiling applies to people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, and to African Americans.


The salt poured at the table is rarely the culprit in sending Americans past the threshold, because eaters can easily control intake in that setting. It is the hidden salt found in many processed foods, or in meals eaten outside the home, that help push Americans over the limits.

Just 10 types of food are responsible for more than 40% of people’s sodium intake, the CDC noted. Leading the pack are bread and rolls, followed by luncheon meat such as deli ham or turkey.

Pizza, poultry, soups, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes and meat dishes such as meatloaf round out the list; snacks such as potato chips, pretzels and popcorn are at the bottom of the 10 worst list, according to the federal agency.

The amount of sodium in each food can vary depending on the style or brand. A slice of white bread can range from 80 to 230 milligrams of sodium. One ounce of potato chips ranges from 50 to 200 milligrams of sodium.


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chips are less of a problem than you might think. Credit: Wilfredo Lee, J Pat Carter/Associated Press