Whether you're trying to monitor your sodium intake or not, you may be shocked to learn exactly how much salt is in one particular type of food—and we're not talking about your salt shaker.
The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, which exceeds the 2,300 milligrams recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines. But the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that adults limit their sodium intake to only 1,500 milligrams a day, especially if they already have high blood pressure. (Related: 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make).
You may be thinking, "I don't even add salt to my food." But you don't have to add any, because more than 70% of sodium in the American diet comes from packaged and prepared foods, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Most Americans severely underestimate how much salt they consume on a daily basis. One study revealed that more than half of adults thought they were ingesting less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day, according to the AHA. Many health complications are associated with having high dietary sodium levels, including cardiovascular disease and cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke.
"We are awash in foods that are high in sodium," Thomas Frieden, former director of the CDC said to The Washington Post. "Sodium reduction is one of the most neglected and under-implemented public health interventions. Yet, there is absolutely no doubt that excess sodium is resulting in deaths."
From loaves of bread to boxes of breakfast cereal, food manufacturers add excess sodium to a wide array of products on grocery store shelves. But you can effectively decrease your sodium intake by reducing the amount of processed and prepared foods you eat each week.
Alternatively, you can look for products on store shelves that say "low sodium" or even use "lite" salt—which contains half of the amount of sodium as regular salt—when preparing meals from scratch. For more suggestions, be sure to read 14 Best Low-Sodium Canned Soups for Heart Health, Approved by Dietitians.