Bread Tops List of High-Salt Sources in American Diet


Bread and rolls account for more than twice as much sodium in the American diet than junk food like potato chips, reported the Associated Press.

"Potato chips, pretzels, and popcorn—which we think of as the saltiest foods in our diet—are only No. 10" on the government report of the top 10 sodium sources in the diets of Americans, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

Bread and rolls don't contain more sodium than most salty snacks, but people tend to eat a lot of them, said Mary Cogswell, a CDC senior scientists who co-authored report released today.

Breads and rolls make up roughly 7 percent of the salt the average American eats in a day, the CDC reveals.

Scrolling down the list, the top 10 foods that make up more than 40% of the sodium regularly consumed by Americans are: bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats such as deli or packaged ham or turkey, pizza, fresh and processed poultry, soups, sandwiches such as cheeseburgers, cheese, some pasta dishes, meat mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce, and snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn.

The CDC surveyed 7,200 people in 2007 and 2008, including nearly 3,000 children for the report.

“Having a diet high in salt makes you more prone to having high blood pressure,” which is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, Jean Charles-Azure, Lummi, a registered dietician and public health nutritionist at the Indian Health Service’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., told Indian Country Today Media Network.

Reducing sodium intake can prove challenging. Oftentimes people do not realize how much sodium certain foods contain. "People can choose how much salt to add to their food at the table. They can't take it out once it's there," Frieden said.

Health officials say most Americans consume excess salt primarily from processed and restaurant foods—not from the salt shaker. "It's possible to eat a whole bunch of sodium without it seeming salty," John Hayes, an assistant professor of food science at Penn State, who was not involved in the report, told the AP.

While a person should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day—roughly a teaspoon of salt—the average sodium consumption in the U.S. is around 3,300 milligrams, the CDC study found. Those with high blood pressure or other health conditions should eat even less. Nine out of 10 Americans surpass the teaspoon guideline, states the highlights from the report.

CDC officials did not advise people to cut bread out of their diets, but rather to read labels, since different brands of food contain different amounts of sodium.

Hayes also pointed to a simple solution: "Eat smaller portions."