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One-third of shoppers look for low-salt and reduced-sodium

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When you shop for groceries, do you look for foods labeled "low sodium," "reduced salt" or "reduced sodium"?

woman reading sodium level on food nutrition labelsA new survey found that about a third of Americans specifically look for and buy foods with these labels when they're grocery shopping.

The survey also found that more than half of shoppers said they knew how to use the information on food nutrition labels to keep track of the salt they're eating. Half of the shoppers said they actually checked the labels for sodium content to lower the salt in their diet.

This is great, because too much salt can increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. And the primary source of sodium in our diets is not the salt shaker - it's the salt added to packaged and restaurant foods.

Almost 80% of the salt in our diets is from that source, which can make it hard to have control over how much sodium we're eating. Because sodium levels in similar foods can vary widely, a key tip is to compare nutrition labels of similar foods and choose the one with the lowest sodium.

The study was led by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. The team looked at data from a survey of more than 3,700 adults conducted in 2010.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has guidelines that define how salt- and sodium-related terms are allowed to be used on food packaged.

These include:

  • Sodium-free - fewer than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride
  • Very low sodium - 35 milligrams or less per serving
  • Low sodium - 140 milligrams or less per serving
  • Reduced (or less) sodium - at least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level
  • Light in sodium or lightly salted - at least 50 percent less sodium than the regular product (again, keeping in mind this may still leave you with a relatively high sodium product, depending on the content of the regular product)
  • No-salt-added or unsalted - no salt is added during processing, but the product is not necessarily sodium-free.

The next time you're grocery shopping, keep an eye for for these terms on the label - now you know what they mean!

Do you look for foods that are labeled as being low, reduced, or light in sodium? Let us know in the comments.