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Kelsey Blackwell's Blog

Is sodium the next trans fat?

It’s safe to say that Americans have realized the pitfalls of a high-sodium diet for some time. Even so, if able to abstain from that extra sprinkle to spike things up at the dinner table, the prepared foods many of us time-crunched rely on make healthy dining difficult.

According to the Mayo Clinic only about 11 percent of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from adding salt to food, the majority (77 percent) is due to eating processed foods. Since it’s hard to avoid, we consume an estimated 3,900 milligrams of sodium a day – more than twice the maximum recommended by U.S. government dietary guidelines, according to a Stanford University study. It’s no surprise then that health issues related to a high-sodium diet such as hypertension, obesity and heart disease are on the rise.

It seems those pesky facts are finally getting a little attention as consumers turn up their noses at sodium-laden foods, more and more big-name manufacturers are vowing to cut the salt in several products. This week General Mills announced it will ditch 20 percent of the sodium in foods like Cheerios and Progresso soup by 2015. Similarly, announced this year, Kraft to slash salt by 10 percent over the next two years, PepsiCo 25 percent over five years, ConAgra 20 percent over five years and Campbell’s cutting back in SpaghettiOs by 35 percent.

It would be naive to believe that these moves are entirely part of an effort to improve the health of consumers. Rather, once the public latches on to something, companies will jump on the bandwagon and do their darndest to provide it—even if it means significant recipe reformulation. It’s a business move but I’m happy to see one in a positive direction. As consumers continue to be interested in what’s in their food (it may be a stretch) but perhaps GMOs, high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils, are next?

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