Americans trying to cut sodium from their diets may be surprised to learn that bread, not chips or pretzels, is a leading culprit.
A new report from the Center for Disease Control found that bread and rolls are the top source of sodium in America’s diet, more than double the percentage of savory snacks.
“Breads and rolls aren’t really saltier than many of the other foods, but people tend to eat a lot of them,” said Mary Cogswell, a CDC senior scientist who co-authored the report.
Along with bread, the CDC found that just ten food items contributed to 44 percent of the sodium consumed by Americans.
On average, Americans currently consume nearly 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day, almost 1,000 more milligrams than is recommended by the CDC.
The study, which looked at 7,227 Americans, found that bread accounted for more than 7 percent of subjects’ daily sodium intake, followed by cold cuts, pizza, poultry, soups and sandwiches.
Rounding out the top ten were foods such as cheese, pasta dishes, mixed meat dishes (such as meatloaf) and savory snacks, each of which added between 3 to 4 percent of the subjects’ daily sodium consumption.
A diet high in sodium has been linked to hypertension, which can lead to other severe health problems such as heart attack or stroke. At the time of the study, nearly 1/3 of American adults were suffering from hypertension.
“Most Americans, if you just eat the food that’s in front of you, will end up with high blood pressure,” said Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC. “Reducing sodium is one of the most effective, lowest cost, safest ways of doing that.”
The CDC estimates that if Americans lowered their daily sodium intake by 400mg, equivalent to a fraction of a teaspoon, approximately 28,000 lives could be saved and $7 billion saved annually in health care costs.
Keith Ayoob, associate professor of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says that eating less sodium should be just one factor in leading an overall healthy life.
“I really want the government out of my stomach,” said Ayoob, who recommends low-sodium snacks and an active lifestyle to combat hypertension. “What we ought to be doing is regulating ourselves.”
AP contributed to this report.