Today, I’m on a mission to simplify the challenge of reducing sodium intake in America. I am inspired by the Heart Association’s (AHA) sodium awareness campaign, the Sodium Swap Challenge, launched this week. AHA wants us to know about the “Salty Six” – bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meat, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches – common foods that are loaded with sodium – and then they ask us to cut back at the rate of two foods per week to change our acquired taste for salt in 21 days.
Kudos to AHA for a noble effort. Excess salt is associated with high blood pressure, a modifiable risk factor for stroke. And because sodium holds onto excess fluid, it can make us puffy and bloated. (Stop right there!) On average, Americans eat 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day; however, the dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300 mg and only 1,500 mg if you are 51 or older, have a cardiovascular condition, or are African-American.
First I Look at the Pizza
Back to simplification. Bread sales are down, as are canned soup sales, but the pizza market is growing. Cheese consumption has quadrupled since the 1950s. That’s because it’s on the pizza. The average American eats 10 pizza pies – 23 pounds of pizza – a year; 94 percent of us eat pizza (at least) once a month; 41 percent eat pizza (at least) once a week. Kids ages 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other foods.
Pizza is the go-to food for busy people. People who wouldn’t dream of dinner at McDonald’s think nothing of ordering a pizza or two. Do they know that a Big Mac with medium fries has 1310 milligrams of sodium, while the same weight of pepperoni pizza has 3249 milligrams?!! One pizza meal has enough sodium (and saturated fat) for two days.
Pizza is an amalgam of bread, cured meat (36% of pizzas are pepperoni), cheese, and tomato sauce, four top sodium foods from the Centers for Disease Control’s Top Sources of Sodium in the Diet, a better list. To simplify sodium reduction, pizza-eating families and singles should look to pizza.
I’m glad we talked.
Your thoughts: Do you know anyone who eats too much pizza?