Salt in Your Diet: Trouble!

FRESNO, Calif.

We all know too much sodium is bad for our hearts, but it's also bad for just about every other part of our bodies.

A little here "a little there" salt permeates the food we eat.

"We really don't have much control over how much sodium that we get," Alanna Morrison, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, told Action News.

Morrson says 80-percent of the sodium we get comes from processed foods.

"It's mainly those foods that come in a can or a box that you find on your grocery store shelves. Pretty much all of those have high sodium," Morrison said.

In the last year, many agencies recommended lowering the daily allowance for sodium to just 1,500 milligrams a day -- that's equal to just a teaspoon, so beware of foods with sneaky salt.

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," Morrison said.

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. 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," Zelko, executive chef of the Zelko Bistro in Houston, told Action News.

Government agencies are now asking manufacturers to lower sodium in their foods.

"The American Heart Association, the Centers for 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," Morrison said.

Recognizing the demand, some food manufacturers have already started to reduce the sodium levels in their foods. Morrison says restricting salt intake will get easier. She says it just takes a couple of weeks to reduce your craving for salt.

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

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