Half of Packaged Foods Don't Meet FDA Requirements for 'Healthy' Items

Patient Expert

Half of Packaged Foods Don’t Meet FDA Requirements for 'Healthy' Items

The American Heart Association has made it clear that too much sodium in your diet can lead to serious problems. While your body does need a particular balance of sodium and water to work properly, too much of either can upset the balance. When you are in good health, your kidneys get rid of extra sodium to insure that balance.

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Your body needs about 200 mg of sodium per day. The problem here is that the average American eats about 3,000 to 3,600 mg of sodium each day. Too much sodium in the body results in water retention and puts an extra burden on the heart and blood vessels.

It is recommended that all Americans cut the sodium in their diet to less than 1,500 mg per day. The consequence of excess sodium is high blood pressure, and the consequences of high blood pressure are heart attack or stroke.

Let the Buyer Beware

A government study found that less than half of packaged items in grocery stores meet the Food and Drug Administration requirements for what is considered healthy. Their findings coordinate with the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than recommended.

The study found more than 70 percent of pizzas, pasta dishes, and meat dishes contained values that were higher than FDA healthy standards for labeling. The same was true for 50 to 70 percent of cold cuts, soups, and sandwiches.

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The research team analyzed results from across the United States in hopes of finding regional differences, and used sodium content as a marker to find out which foods were healthy. Sodium content is a good marker for determining how unhealthy foods are in a number of ways: It can be used as a benchmark to study foods high in fat, processed grains, or sugar.

What they found was that location didn't really matter. Grocery stores all across the country stock their shelves with unhealthy options and Americans are buying them up. However, FDA requirements will not allow a product to be labeled healthy unless it contains less than 480 mg of sodium in items such as bread or less than 600 mg in main dish meal items.** Secret Sodium**

While it's obvious that being heavy-handed with the salt shaker can increase sodium levels, the CDC notes most of the soduim in American diets is 'hidden' in processed foods. Bread is actually the biggest source of sodium in the United States.

Most Americans are probably not healthy. In addition, half of the US population is living with one or more chronic diseases, that could be prevented. Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and diet-related cancers are mainly due to poor dietary habits and physical inactivity. One third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, with sodium playin a part in one quarter of the cases.

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Of course, there are options to help improve your health. The first is to simply read the labels on any packaged foods that you purchase. Always aim to choose the one with less sodium. But to get the most benefit from your food, stick with the age-old advice and choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables which rarely contain sodium at all.

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References:** Heart**

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