You may want to think twice before grabbing that pre-packaged deli sandwich. Earlier this month, federal regulators released new guidelines to cut the sodium Americans eat in processed food, aimed at reducing high blood pressure and heart disease in the U.S.

The new guidelines encourage restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce salt added to food by one-third over the next decade.

So what’s the deal with sodium?

Sodium is a necessary electrolyte in our body that keeps the fluids in our bodies balanced, but consuming too much sodium causes the fluid balance to be “slightly off,” explained Bonnie Alexander, RD, an outpatient dietitian at Washington Adventist Hospital. This causes high blood pressure and puts stress on your heart.

“Over time, high blood pressure can stretch or weaken the blood vessels, cause heart attacks and increase the likelihood of plaque buildup in your arteries,” said Alexander.

Nine in 10 Americans consume too much sodium, taking in an average of 3,400 mg a day, or 50 percent more than recommended. Most of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, like frozen meals, processed snacks and food at restaurants.

“The new guidelines could help get the sodium the average American eats down closer to the recommended 2,300 mg per day, but the new guidelines are not mandatory and will not go into effect immediately,” said Alexander.

“Americans will continue to need to read nutrition labels and make heart healthy choices while eating out.”

Cut sodium in your diet.

  • Read nutrition labels
  • Choose foods with 150 m of sodium or less
  • Limit intake of packaged or processed foods
  • Rinse canned vegetables
  • Limit the use of the salt shaker
  • Add flavor to dishes with fresh herbs and spices

Want more help eating healthy? Call 301-891-6105 to make an appointment with one of our dietitians.