Are Americans Consuming Too Much Salt?

salt intake
CBS/The Early Show
The Center for Science in the Public Interest calls them "heart attack entrees" and side orders of "stroke" in its latest report to be released Monday.

The report, based on the saltiest meals in America, focuses on the 25 largest U.S. chain restaurants, which provided the sodium content of its adult and kids' menu items to the CSPI. They considered each meal to be one entree, side dish and drink.

According to CSPI, Red Lobster and Chili's are the among the worst offenders.

CBS News medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton tells more about these meals and what you should know about your salt intake.

How much salt should we have in a day?

According to Ashton, salt intake varies based on our taste and our medical condition, but the recommended amount is 2300 milligrams - or one teaspoon in a day.

She points out that most Americans get two or three times that amount in one meal, which she says, "makes quite an impression."

"We have to be clear. We have salt in our blood, sodium chloride. We need it. It's not evil. It's like the sun. A little bit is good. A lot can be bad," she explained. "For people with heart conditions or high blood pressure they want to be a little more careful."

Ashton used a meal from Red Lobster that has about 7,000 milligrams of sodium as an example.

"We should also point out that they have a lot of healthier options on their menu, too," she said.

What's the danger? What does this do to me if I eat this?

"Sodium makes us hold onto water and regulates our water balance," Ashton noted. "If you do have high blood pressure or a heart condition it can make those conditions worse.

"You can do healthier. You might not like the taste of it, but it's available."