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FDA Releases New Guidelines on Salt Intake

Posted on Nov 01, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released new guidelines on the amount of salt intake we should all be having. Is this something that children and families should be aware of and how are these recommendations different from in the past? On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Raquel G. Hernandez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, medical director of the Healthy Weight Initiative and director of the Center for Pediatric Health Equity Research at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares the update all parents should know.

What should parents know?

This is a really important change that children and families should definitely be aware of because it seeks to improve the quality of our diets overall as well as seeks to reduce the burden of heart disease within our country. Currently, more than four in 10 adults have high blood pressure and about one in 10 children have elevated blood pressure that puts them at risk for long-term heart disease and stroke. The science supports that when sodium increases, so does blood pressure and so therefore because of the correlation, reducing sodium intake will likely have a big impact on our health.

When does this recommendation take effect?

The change in recommendations reflects what the FDA is calling a gradual reduction in recommendations that will manifest over the next 2½ years. The current recommendations state that we should not have more than 2,300 milligrams per day (1 teaspoon); however, the average intake of salt for most Americans is far above this at 3,400 milligrams per day. So, the FDA now recommends that Americans bring their salt intake down to 3,000 milligrams per day over the next 2½ years.

What impact will it have?

There is still much work to be done, but this change is very important in that it will support the food industry, restaurants and others in the food market as they commit to lower salt standards. This change at the policy and systems level will make it easier for children and parents to make healthier choices when it comes to the food they buy and are exposed to on a day to day basis. As we shift these practices, we’ll be more likely to continue reducing intake on a step by step basis.

What foods contain the most salt?

Salt is in almost everything we eat and you would be amazed at how quickly this can add up recognizing that the total amount of salt we should have per day is about 1 teaspoon! In fact, about 40% of the sodium in our diets comes from just a handful of foods. Here are a few of them:

  • Deli meats/sandwiches
  • Pancake mixes/baking mixes
  • Coffee drinks/energy drinks  
  • Chips/crackers/cookies
  • Pizza
  • Soups
  • Frozen foods

A surprising example for many is a doughnut. A typical glazed doughnut contains 270 milligrams of salt. And a caramel Frappuccino has around 230 milligrams. Even foods that are sweet have salt!!

The more unprocessed food you can have the better. Look for things without a can or a package. But it’s always good advice to read the food label and make sure you read how much salt and sugar are in what you eat.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can download our free Pocket Doc app, which features a symptom checker, parenting advice and other tools for staying in touch with us.


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