Reduce Sodium Intake By Using the Nutrition Facts Label

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February is American Heart Month, and consumers should be aware that a high-sodium diet can increase their risk of developing high blood pressure. An estimated one in three Americans suffer from high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States.

The US Food and Drug Administration has a simple tool to help you check and decrease the amount of sodium in your diet. It’s called the Nutrition Facts Label, and it is found on most packaged foods and beverages.

Use Percent Daily Value (%DV) to Limit Sodium 
The daily value for sodium is less than 2,400 milligrams (mg) per day—that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt! But on average, Americans eat about 3,300 mg of sodium a day. Use the %DV on the Nutrition Facts Label to help you stay below 100% of the daily value for sodium each day.

* As a guideline, 5% DV (120 mg) or less of sodium per serving of a food is low, and 20% DV (480 mg) or more of sodium per serving is high.

* When comparing and choosing foods, pick the food with the lower %DV of sodium. And, remember to check the serving size. The %DV listed is for one serving of the food, but one package may contain more than one serving.

Know the Sources of Sodium in Your Diet
Over 75% of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged and restaurant foods, whereas only a small portion (11%) comes from salt added at the table or in cooking. These 10 types of food are the greatest sources of sodium in the American diet:

* Breads and rolls

* Cold cuts and cured meats

* Pizza

* Fresh and processed poultry

* Soups

* Sandwiches (e.g., hot dogs, hamburgers, subs)

* Cheese

* Mixed pasta dishes (e.g., spaghetti with meat sauce)

* Mixed meat dishes (e.g., beef stew)

* Savory snacks (e.g., chips, pretzels, popcorn)

Because so much of our sodium is already added to food, it can be challenging for consumers to significantly reduce their sodium intake. That’s why FDA is looking for ways to promote gradual and realistic sodium reductions in food currently available in the marketplace and is considering voluntary targets for sodium reduction in foods.  

Reduce Sodium By Making Smart Food Choices 
You can also reduce sodium when making daily dietary choices.

* Buy fresh or frozen meat and poultry instead of canned, smoked, or processed meats.

* Choose fresh, frozen, or low sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables.

* Flavor food with herbs and spices instead of salt.

* Choose unsalted snacks.

Consider sodium when dining out, too! Request nutrition information or check the restaurant’s website in advance, and choose lower sodium options. Also, ask for your meal to be prepared without salt and order sauces and salad dressings “on the side” and use less.