New FDA Salt Reduction Rules Are Bad News For Your Tastebuds, Great For Everything Else

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Your favorite salty snacks might get a tad more bland soon, but it's for your own good. The FDA has begun preparing salt-reduction guidelines for the food industry in an effort to lower sodium levels to reduce heart disease and stroke. On average, Americans are eating more sodium than the government's recommended amount, and the FDA plans to gradually shift our taste buds toward less-salty versions of our favorite foods.

After a 2010 Institute of Medicine report found that companies hadn't done enough to reduce the amount of sodium in their products, the institute urged the government to step in and establish maximum sodium levels. The FDA is taking a more lenient approach, in fact, by making the new guidelines voluntary for food companies. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that she's confident companies will do the right thing.

"Many companies have been very forward-leaning in terms of addressing this issue and some have made commitments for progress that they want to make over time," Hamburg told the Associated Press. "A lot of companies we've talked to say they welcome our coming forward with this kind of approach because they'd like to see a level playing field, because lowering sodium in certain products isn't always welcomed by the consumer, at least initially."

In other words, the companies that have already committed to lowering sodium in their products don't want to be the only ones, fearing that consumers will select saltier options if given the choice.

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But why isn't the FDA making these guidelines mandatory? Well, it's a difficult sell, for a few reasons: Firstly, Americans love salt. Some of our favorite foods are packed with it, like bacon, potato chips, and hamburgers. To change our beloved snacks overnight would cause an upheaval, so the transition needs to be gradual.

Secondly, sodium isn't just in foods to enhance flavor; it also plays a major role in food processing. It helps to prolong shelf life, prevent bacteria growth, and improve texture and appearance — thus making it more difficult to remove from certain products.

But at the end of the day, Americans are eating too much sodium. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily amount of sodium is 1,500 milligrams while the government recommends 2,300 milligrams. The average American consumes 3,400.

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Eating sodium in excess has been associated with high blood pressure — which the organization cites as the leading cause of death in women above breast cancer — stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.

As complex as the undertaking is, there are ways for companies to make immediate tweaks to their products. According to the CDC, levels of sodium in popular foods vary widely. For instance, three ounces of prepackaged sliced turkey meat can contain anywhere from 450 milligrams to 1,050 milligrams, and one cup of canned chicken noodle soup can contain 100 to 940 milligrams.

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Speaking of popular foods that can stand a tweak or two, we've rounded up the saltiest foods out there that the food industry should maybe start with. Yes, you may be a little disappointed, but this is for your health.

Bread

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It might not taste salty, but bread can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium in one slice. That's already 15 percent of the American Heart Association's recommended daily amount.

Cold Cuts and Deli Meat

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Prepackaged turkey meat can have as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. In fact, cured meats require a lot of sodium to preserve it longer.

Sandwiches and Burgers

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Since bread and deli meat both contain a lot of sodium, you know what that means? Sandwiches and burgers are a heavy source of sodium, making up 21 percent of Americans' total sodium intake.

Pizza

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I know, I know. Don't mess with pizza! But one slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium. Try swapping pepperoni and extra cheese with more vegetables to reduce that number (and so you can continue eating the best food on earth).

Soup

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One can of soup can contain almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium, but as stated above, the levels can vary greatly. Simply opt for reduced-sodium or sodium-free options, which are already available on store shelves.