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It’s World Salt Awareness Week 2014, and this year, the focus is on the need for clear and consistent nutrition labeling – so consumers can make smarter food choices.

What is Sodium?

“Sodium” and “salt” are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same. Sodium is a component of salt and is measured in milligrams. Salt, usually measured in grams, contains 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

According to CDC, the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium every day, which is more than double the recommended amount for most healthy adults.

Did you know that more than 75% of the sodium you eat comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods? In fact, many people are surprised to learn that the top sources of sodium in this country include bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats and pizza.

Why Can Too Much Sodium Be Dangerous?

Too much sodium increases your blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, disability and death.

How Much Sodium Do You Actually Need?

The recommended amount of sodium your body requires depends a great deal on your current health:

2,300 milligrams (mg): The maximum level of sodium for Americans aged 2 years and older who do not fall into any of the below categories.

1,500 mg: The maximum level of sodium for people who are aged 51 years or older, African American, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.

Easy Ways To Reduce Your Daily Sodium Intake

  • Check nutrition labels while grocery shopping
  • Limit your consumption of processed foods
  • Purchase low-salt products
  • At restaurants, ask the server for nutritional information and/or ask that no salt be added to your meal
  • When preparing meals at home, limit the amount of salt you add
  • Eat potassium-rich foods (including bananas, potatoes, beans and dairy products), which can help reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure