American Heart Association Warns of the “Salty Six”

The American Heart Association recently revealed a warning list of six foods – called the “Salty Six” – that can raise your sodium levels without your realizing it. However, these foods don’t include common salty foods like potato chips or burgers. Many of the foods on the list may surprise you.

Controlling sodium levels is important; consuming too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, and make your heart work much harder than it needs to. It can damage the heart and lead to heart failure, or it can increase your risk for a stroke. Excess sodium can also affect your appearance. It can make your face look puffy, put bags under your eyes, and make you bloat, making it harder for you to squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans.

The American Heart Association recommends that we try to keep our sodium intake below 1,500 milligrams a day and consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, the average American diet provides 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.  

While we may think we get most of our salt from sprinkling it on our food, only a small portion of our total salt consumption comes from sprinkled table salt. The majority is already packed into our foods while its processed in the factory or prepared in the restaurant.

To assess how much sodium the country is consuming, and from what, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) assessed proportions of sodium consumption from over 100 specific food categories in 7,227 participants to determine the Salty Six.

The surprising “Salty Six” includes:

  • Bread and rolls
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Pizza
  • Fresh and processed poultry
  • Soups, especially canned soups
  • Sandwiches, like cheeseburgers

Image courtesy of the American Heart Association

Though this list may seem surprising, it doesn’t mean one should avoid these foods altogether. The keys to success are moderation and label reading, as sodium levels vary from brand to brand or restaurant to restaurant. Control your portions, and when grocery shopping or dining in a restaurant, keep these foods in mind when making your selections.

To make a heart-healthy choice, you can also look for the “Heart-Check” mark on some foods that the American Heart Association labels as low-sodium and healthy.

If we all make the effort to control our sodium and keep our blood pressure within normal limits, we can prevent the average annual loss of 348,000 lives in the US; 31% of US adults have high blood pressure, and fewer than half of them have it under control. Though many physicians attempt to use medications like water pills or beta blockers to control blood pressure, the best way to control your blood pressure and improve your health is with a good, low-sodium diet and exercise.