The Problem With Sodium in America

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Research shows Americans eat too much sodium, which can increase blood pressure and ultimately impact heart health. In a recent study conducted by CDC researchers, thousands of packaged foods sold in grocery stores in three parts of the US were analyzed to determine whether there were regional variations in sodium content that might contribute to differences in hypertension prevalence.

Overall, researchers found that less than half of the products sold across the nation met the Food and Drug Administration’s “healthy” label claim criteria for sodium. That means a majority of the pizzas, pasta dishes, meat dishes, cold cuts, soups, and sandwiches exceeded what FDA considers to be a healthy sodium level. And while researchers found some slight sodium differences in products between regions, the data suggest excess sodium is an issue everywhere – and one that can make it a challenge for consumers nationwide to reduce or manage their salt intake.

However, there are ways shoppers can lower their sodium intake on that next trip to the grocery store. For example:

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label while shopping to find lower-sodium options of your favorite foods. For example, sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by as much as 840 milligrams per serving. In addition, leaving cheese off your sandwich, choosing lower-salt chips, and drinking water instead of a sports drink can slash approximately 490 milligrams of sodium from one meal.
  • For canned and frozen fruits or vegetables, look for no salt added or low sodium versions.
  • Cook at home when possible. This way, you’re in charge of the ingredients and you know exactly what you and your family are eating.

Gradually lowering the sodium content of the entire food supply will give consumers more choices and more power in reducing the amount of salt they eat.


By Linda Schieb, MSPH
Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The study mentioned in this blog post can be found here: Sodium Content in Packaged Foods by Census Division in the United States, 2009.
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Page last reviewed: April 9, 2015
Page last updated: April 9, 2015