Salt is our absolute favorite, but it’s easy to overdo it. So easy, in fact, that about 90% of Americans overindulge on the regular, according to our friends at the American Heart Association. While we’re supposed to have only 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, we eat more than 3,400 milligrams. Eek.
“The vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its Sodium Reduction Initiative. “Nearly nine in 10 U.S. children eat more sodium than recommended, and about one in nine children has raised blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.”
One of the main culprits of our sodium addiction: The snacks we turn to between meals are often packed with preservatives and way too much salt, the Food and Drug Administration reports, and the AHA specifically called out manufactured food as being responsible for 65% of our salt intake. At least we can feel a bit better about the meals we make from scratch at home, right?
Some sodium is a necessary ingredient for life—it helps control the balance of fluids in your system, sends nerve impulses and aids in muscle movement. “The human body can’t live without some sodium,” Harvard University writes in its Heart Letter. “It’s needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers (including those in the heart and blood vessels) and maintain a proper fluid balance. It doesn’t take much to do this. The Yanomamo people of the Amazon rainforest get by on just 200 milligrams of sodium a day (about the amount found in one-tenth teaspoon of salt).”