Job offersmore »

Specialsmore »

Top 5 - yesterday

Top 5 - last week

Top 5 - last month

Exchange ratesmore »

A+ | A-
Institute of Medicine says Americans consume unhealthy amounts of sodium
Fruits and vegetables are low or no sodium foods

In a report just released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the organization states that Americans consume amounts of sodium in their food that far exceed public health recommendations. In 2008, Congress asked the IOM, which falls under auspices of the National Academies, to suggest strategies for reducing sodium intake to levels recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In their report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, which can be read on the IOM website, the committee concludes that reducing the sodium content of foods requires a coordinated approach that includes new government standards for accept­able levels of sodium in processed foods and restaurant meals.
The IOM committee says the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day. That's about 50 percent more than the 2,300 mg (about one teaspoon) per day recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Consuming too much sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure, a serious health condition that is avoidable and can lead to a variety of diseases. Analysts estimate that population-wide reductions in sodium could prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually.
"Some level of sodium is required in a healthy diet, however the IOM report suggests what we've long known, that most people are consuming too much," said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation, the non-profit organization behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters® national public health initiative. "We know that high sodium intake is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and strokes, and that most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium or sodium-free. If people simply focus on eating more fruits and veggies, both at home and when dining out, their diets will generally be lower in sodium, which could lower their risks for these health problems. Conversely, hypertension has also been associated with diets too low in potassium. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of potassium in the diet, so adding more of them can help lower health risks in this way too."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains on their website that naturally occurring sodium in foods accounts for only 12 percent of Americans' sodium intake and that salt, added either during cooking or at the table, accounts for only five and six percent of sodium intake, respectively. CDC goes on to say that sodium added as part of food processing makes up about 77 percent of Americans' sodium intake.
Pivonka says that canned vegetables contribute very little sodium to the diet when compared with processed meats, cheeses, baked goods, and other foods. 
"Several canned vegetables do contain added sodium. However, a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionabout processed foods being the major contributors to dietary salt intake found that sauces, spreads, and processed meats were the highest in sodium food groups while cereal products and fruits and vegetables were the lowest in sodium. Also, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that canned vegetables contribute less than one percent of sodium to dietary intake. This proves that fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium, are not the main contributors to a high-sodium diet."
She adds that minimizing sodium from canned veggies is easy and quick, "Just drain and rinse! That's something that can't be done with deli meats, hot dogs, bread, boxed dinner mixes, and other items."
Pivonka suggests that fruits and vegetables can even be used to help adjust tastebuds to a lower level of sodium in foods.
"Try adding citrus juice or fresh herbs to dishes when cooking or at the table in place of salt. A combination of fruits and vegetables can work together to create a flavor profile where salt isn't even missed, like putting jalapeno and pineapple salsa over grilled chicken, fish, or pork."
Pivonka offers the following advice for those trying to lower their sodium intake.
"Be aware of the salt and sodium content in the foods you eat by becoming a label reader. You can easily decrease your daily sodium intake by replacing some processed meats, cookies, and sweets with fruits and vegetables. Making sure you're getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily is a great way to begin!"
She also suggests that food manufacturers and restauranteurs can help reduce sodium in their products by adding healthful fruits and vegetables, in their whole form, to side dishes and entrees.
"This is a delicious and easy way to add extra fiber and vitamins while reducing sodium in the finished dish."
During a webcast held by the IOM to discuss the report, Dr. Jane Henney, chair of the committee that prepared it, stressed that the strategies suggested in the report were aimed at reducing sodium intake to levels specified in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These dietary guidelines are currently up for review and may be lowered when the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report comes out later this year.
The IOM report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, can be read on the IOM website. A pie chart offering a breakdown of the sources of sodium in the American diet can be found on CDC's website. For delicious fruit and vegetable recipes and nutrition information, including the sodium content of different fruits and vegetables, visit the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters website, While there, check out the About The Buzz news column on sodium.    

Jill Le Brasseur
Produce for Better Health Foundation
Tel: 302-235-2329

Publication date: 4/22/2010


Receive the daily newsletter in your email for free | Click here


Other news in this sector: