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FDA Hopes to "Shake" Hidden Salt in Our Diets

Ninety percent of Americans eat too much salt -- most eat twice the recommended amount.

Now the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to set limits on the amount of sodium allowed in our food. But where is all that salt coming from?

On "The Early Show," CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton revealed the secret salt in our diets and how to "shake" the habit.

According to Ashton, salt is a very essential electrolyte in the body, which makes up the majority of the blood. Our body needs salt. It's not all bad like so many other things.

"Your blood tastes salty and your sweat is obviously made up of salt. What happens in the body is water follows every molecule of salt. So, if you ingest a lot of salt, you will retain a lot of water and for people with kidney problems, heart problems, high blood pressure, that can be dangerous," she said.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated 150,000 lives could be saved a year if we lighten up on salt.

So, is it all about the salt shaker?

"It's actually not," Ashton said. "A lot of us say, 'I don't add salt to our food so I don't have to worry about this.' Not so. If you look at daily recommended amounts that put it into context, 1,500 milligrams a day is what we're supposed to get. The average American gets twice that amount, 3,400 milligrams. It's coming from hidden sources, things you would not expect."

Some examples of foods that have hidden salt include: cereal, cottage cheese, bread, salad dressing, tomato sauce and chicken.

• Cottage cheese has a cup has about 900 milligrams of sodium.
• A bagel, you don't think you're ingesting salt with breakfast, but it's about a third of what you should have every day.
• Even whole grain cereal like Raisin Bran, one cup has 400 milligrams of sodium.
• One serving of salad dressing also has about 300 to 400 milligrams of sodium.

"Packaged food, processed food, and restaurant prepared food. Even if you cook at home, things like tomato sauce on top of your nice pasta, it's loaded with salt and prepared chicken can be injected with a salt solution to make it appear more plump, filled with sodium," she said.

How do you cut sodium out of your diet?

"A couple things. This bears mention again and again. You want to eat more fresh foods and eat fewer or less processed foods," Ashton explained. "Obviously, as we've said today, you want to limit your use of condiments, like tomato sauce, salad dressing in limited amounts and use herbs and spices to retrain your taste buds so you don't say, this is horrible. Because at the end of the day you want your food to taste good, but healthy at same time."