Eating too much salt can be deadly. Here's how to cut down.
The World Health Organization warned Thursday that people are ingesting more than twice as much salt as they should each day.
In the report, the WHO says that sodium, "an essential nutrient, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death when eaten in excess." Evidence also links high-sodium intake with increased chances of developing gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and kidney disease.
Implementation of salt-reduction rules could save around 7 million lives by 2030, the report says. Around 1.89 million people suffer salt-intake-related deaths each year.
"Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is one of the main culprits," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "This report shows that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems."
On average, people consume 10.78 grams of salt each day. WHO recommendations call for about 5 grams — approximately a teaspoon — per day.
In 2013, all WHO member states committed to reduce people's sodium intake by 30% by 2025, but only 5% of those countries have mandatory and comprehensive policies to cut down on salt, the organization said. Those policies include things like front-of-package labeling about sodium amounts and media campaigns to encourage cutting back on salt consumption. The WHO also advises reformulating food to be less salty and limiting sodium-heavy foods in schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
Federal guidelines in the U.S. suggest people consume no more than 2.3 grams of salt a day. Around 90% of Americans ages 2 and up consume too much sodium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 40% of American adults have high blood pressure.
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How can you reduce your sodium intake on a daily basis? Here are some expert tips:
1. Choose packaged and prepared foods carefully
When shopping, the American Heart Association advises comparing nutrition labels and choosing the product with the lowest amount of sodium per serving. You can also opt for canned vegetables labeled "no salt added" and frozen vegetables without salty sauces added.
For fresh and frozen poultry, the AHA suggests making sure it hasn't been injected with a sodium solution. "Check the fine print on the packaging for terms like 'broth,' 'saline' or 'sodium solution,'" the group says.
2. Be careful with condiments
"For example, soy sauce, bottled salad dressings, dips, ketchup, jarred salsas, capers, mustard, pickles, olives and relish can be sky-high in sodium. Look for a reduced- or lower-sodium version," the AHA says.
3. Use flavoring alternatives
To replace or reduce the amount of salt you use when cooking, the CDC suggests using flavorful alternatives such as garlic, citrus juice, salt-free seasonings, herbs or spices.
4. Skip salt at restaurants
When dining out, ask that no salt be added to your meal, the CDC suggests. Or swap out salty side dishes in favor of no-salt-added vegetables or fruit.
5. Incorporate potassium-rich foods
"Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure," the AHA notes, listing options such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas, cantaloupe, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce.
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