Dietary sodium can raise blood pressure and research shows that high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, the first- and fourth-leading cause of death among Americans.
It has long been known that processed foods are the biggest-ticket items when it comes to dietary sodium. According to the CDC, approximately 65% of our daily sodium consumption comes from foods purchased outside the home, such as at a supermarket or convenience store. In fact, the CDC identified that over 40% of the sodium that we eat comes from these 10 categories of processed foods:
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Pasta dishes
- Meat dishes
While cold cuts, cured meats, and soups have a history of being notoriously high in sodium, surprisingly, bread and rolls actually top the list due to the frequency that we eat them daily. Obliviously, since so much sodium is already in the foods that Americans buy, food manufacturers need to ratchet down the sodium content in their products to help Americans ratchet down their blood pressure.
To help in this cause, many food companies such as Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup Company, Wishbone, and Dietz and Watson have signed on to the National Salt Reduction Initiative. As part of the initiative, each company must pledge to reduce the sodium within their product line (canned soup, cold cuts, etc.) to within a specific level. The goal of the initiative is to reduce Americans' salt intake by 20 percent over five years. For example, Pepperidge Farm, a subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Company, has reduced the sodium in their breads by at least 25 percent as compared to regular breads, rolls, and bagels. The USDA plans to continually monitor the sodium content in processed foods.
As a consumer, you can control your sodium intake by comparison shopping. Because consumers "talk with their food dollars," choosing the brand with the lowest sodium will send a message to food manufacturers that lowering sodium is important to the consumer.