PUBLISHED: 4:11 PM on Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Most salt intake comes from prepackaged meals, snacks
Want to cut down on your salt?

You'll probably need to do more than pass the salt shaker in the other direction.

The average American consumes 1 to 3 teaspoons of salt daily, according to the American Heart Association.

But table salt isn't where most Americans get their sodium.

The AHA said Americans consume most of their sodium through prepackaged meals and snacks. Fast food, TV dinners, potato chips and other processed foods are typically high in sodium. And that's what lots of Americans are eating.

Seventy-seven percent of the sodium in most Americans' diets comes from processed foods, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Only 6 percent of a person's average sodium intake is in the form of table salt.

But it's not just junk food that's full of sodium.

One can of Campbell's soup can contain more sodium than a healthy person should eat all day. Even breakfast cereals can contain big boosts of sodium.

Eliminating processed foods from your diet is a good first step in cutting back on your sodium.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people with high blood pressure, blacks and all middle-aged adults consume no more than 1,500 mgs of sodium daily.

Why you should pass on the salt

Sodium causes the body to retain fluid. In order to pump that fluid, the heart is forced to work harder than usual.

This can be dangerous for people with heart conditions. Scientists have also found that too much sodium contributes to obesity.

Reducing the amount of salt you eat can help reduce or avoid high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

American Heart Association sodium recommendations:

People shouldn't consume more than 2,300 mgs of salt per day.

• 1/4 teaspoon of salt = 600 mg sodium

• 1 teaspoon of salt = 2,400 mg of sodium

Individuals suffering from heart failure should limit their sodium intake to 2,000 mgs a day.

Low sodium cooking at home

When cooking at home, avoid using the following high-sodium ingredients:

• Bouillon cubes.

• Cooking wine.

• Chili sauce.

• Meat tenderizer.

• Seasoned salts.

• Soy sauce.

• Steak sauce.

• Tamari

• Worcestershire sauce.