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Dietary Guidelines: A Pillar of Salt?

Salt, salt, salt. Is that what the new U.S. dietary guidelines are all about?

That’s Americans’ prevailing opinion. The  PoliPulse issue tracker, which analyzes online social media, finds that “too much salt” is the most frequent take-away message people are getting about the new dietary guidelines.

And a quick search of news articles on the dietary guidelines shows why: Most news articles focus on the recommendation to consume less sodium, most of which we get in the form of salt.

There’s really nothing new about this advice, which parrots Institute of Medicine recommendations made last spring. And the American Heart Association actually suggests the new recs are too confusing (they give two separate target numbers), are a “step backward” (the most stringent recs kick in at age 51, not the AHA’s age 40), and don’t go far enough (AHA says everyone should aim for sodium intake of no more than 1500 mg/day).

And the media focus on salt isn’t helpful because most of the salt in the American diet doesn’t come from our salt shakers or home cooking — it comes from processed foods.

Lost in much of the media coverage are the other things we should avoid besides excess salt: solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains.  Everyone knows we’re supposed to eat more vegetables and fish and to cut back on meat and poultry — but for the first time, the guidelines offer concrete advice on how to do this.

So how much do you really know about the guidelines? Try this quiz.  Then check out the dietary guidelines document itself — it’s likely to surprise you.

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