Salt can be found in just about everything, from salad dressing to strawberry shortcake. So what's the big deal if we are eating too much, or too little?
Most table salt contains iodine, added to increase it's nutritional value. A diet that is deficient in iodine can lead to thyroid problems, and is the leading preventable cause of metal illness.
On the other hand, too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke. Consuming too much of the white stuff has also been liked to weight gain and obesity.
The National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association recommend taking in no more than 2.4 grams, or about one teaspoon, of salt each day.
Americans are taking in at least three times the recommend amount (on average men get 10.4 grams per day, with women taking in 7.3 grams).
The culprit is heavily processed foods. Processed foods contribute 75-80% of our total salt consumption each year. There has been a recent push for the FDA to start regulating the amount of salt that goes into processed foods, but for now your best bet is to avoid them as much as possible. Salt is primarily used in foods as a flavor enhancer, so it's no surprise that food companies are reluctant to reduce a product's sodium content. Kraft Foods as pledged a 10% salt reduction in their products, but other's have been slow to follow Kraft's example.
One way to help curb salt consumption is to cook fresh foods yourself at home. While almost every food as some naturally occurring salt, you will have more control over what goes into each meal than you would at a restaurant. As always, moderation is key!