Eating too many salty foods can create all sorts of health problems, including high blood pressure. But did you know a lot of common foods are packed with excess sodium? It’s not just the french fries and potato chips you need to be careful with.
That’s why the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is increasing awareness of sodium and the “Salty Six” – common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium that can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Sodium overload is a major health problem in the United States. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day – more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. That’s in large part because of our food supply; more than 75 percent of our sodium consumption comes from processed and restaurant foods.
Be sure to keep in mind that different brands and restaurant preparation of the same foods may have different sodium levels. The American Heart Association's Heart-Check mark—whether in the grocery store or restaurant helps shoppers see through the clutter on grocery store shelves to find foods that help you build a heart-healthy diet.
Sodium doesn’t just affect your heart health, but your physical appearance as well. Excess sodium consumption may make your face feel puffy, give you bags under your eyes, increase swelling in your fingers and make your jeans look, and feel, tighter. In fact, from an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association consumer poll, 75 percent of respondents stated that their pants feeling too tight is their least favorite effect of bloating which may be associated with excess sodium consumption.
As you gear up for your next grocery store run or order from the menu, keep the Salty Six in mind. All you need to do to make a heart-healthy choice is to look for the Heart-Check mark. Another helpful tool is the Nutrition Facts label on the package and calorie labeling in restaurants, which together with the Heart-Check mark helps you make wise choices for the foods you and your family eat. Make the effort to choose products that contain less sodium. It’s worth it!
Here’s a quick look at the Salty Six, the top sources for sodium in today’s diet (download the infographic as a pdf):
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Vital Signs: Food Categories Contributing the Most to Sodium Consumption—United States, 2007–2008, February 10, 2012 / 61(05);92-98.