Some salient facts about salt

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What s the largest source of salt in our diets? Is it potato chips? French fries? Neither of these, says a recent report form the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Actually, bread and rolls provide us with the greatest amount of salt in our diets.

This answer may come as a surprise to many Americans who are used to being told to avoid snacks like chips and pretzels because of their high sodium content. But these snacks were actually at the bottom of the CDC s list of the top 10 sources of sodium in the American diet. The top five sources, on the other hand, were bread and rolls, cured meats and cold cuts, pizza, poultry, and soups. The CDC collected this data through surveys of over 7,000 people in 2007 and 2008, including almost 3,000 children. Researchers obtained detailed information about what the participants ate, then categorized these responses and assigned sodium levels to each category.

This is just another part of nutrition that people need to be aware of, says ACSH s Cheryl Martin. Most of us don t know how much sodium is in the products we consume on a daily basis. Indeed, while the CDC does not necessarily recommend that people cut down on bread and rolls, they are advising consumers to be mindful of sodium content and to read labels, since the results of the agency s study show that the greatest amount of sodium we consume may come from sources we don t expect.

ACSH's Dr. Ruth Kava comments, People have been told before that most of their salt does not come from the salt shaker, but that it s already present in the foods they buy. This report is just further evidence that there are many sources of salt in our diets that may not be obvious.

But ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan reminds us that, while it s important to be mindful of nutrition labels, most of us do not need to be concerned with following a very low-sodium diet. This type of diet has not been shown to help many people; in some cases, it can actually be detrimental.