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List of 'Salty Six' Foods May Surprise You

How Much Is Too Much?

The heart association’s view on salt is not without controversy.

It’s lower than the USDA limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day for healthy adults. The USDA does call for the lower level of 1,500 mg for African-Americans, people who are older than age 51, and people who have high blood pressure.

In a paper published last week, the association defended its call for all Americans to drastically cut back on sodium to 1,500 milligrams, saying recent studies linking lower sodium diets to poor health have serious flaws.

Morton Satin, vice president for science and research at the Salt Institute, an industry group, disagrees with that view. He says the AHA review represents “spinning of evidence by committed advocates.” 

“The authors …. have banded together for the express purpose of maligning any and all evidence that does not support the conventional salt reduction agenda,” Satin says.

But Marion Nestle, PhD, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, says consumers shouldn’t be confused about sodium.

“The AHA paper is an example of the mainstream scientific view: Reducing salt intake is an important public health measure. Most salt comes from processed foods; reducing salt in processed -- and restaurant -- foods is a good idea,” Nestle says.

How to Keep Salt in Check

Here are some tips to avoid salt overload:

  • Keep the “salty six” in mind when grocery shopping or ordering from a menu. Try having half a sandwich with a side salad rather than a whole sandwich, or limiting the cheese and adding extra veggies to pizzas.
  • Look for sodium levels in the nutrition facts label when grocery shopping, and calorie labeling information in restaurants.
  • Keep in mind that packaged foods like canned soup often contain more than one serving. Nutrition information like sodium content is based only one serving, so adjust accordingly.
  • Look for heart-healthy foods approved by the AHA labeled with a red heart and white checkmark.

Brenda Goodman contributed to this report.

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