Salt is one of the most important ingredients in the culinary world; it enhances the flavor of everything, from beef, butter, and pasta to watermelon, caramel, and ice cream. Salt has been a valued commodity throughout history, not only as a flavoring agent, but also as a preservative that enabled vegetables, seafood, and meats to travel long distances unspoiled.
But in recent decades, salt (and in particular one of its chemical components, sodium) has been targeted by the American Heart Association as a source of high blood pressure and hypertension in people over the age of 50. According to the AHA, sodium forces the body to retain water, which puts an extra strain on the heart and blood vessels — the result being elevated blood pressure. The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly, but many packaged and fast food brands overuse salt as a way to mask their often flavorless and heavily processed foods.
The United States Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but data shows that, on average, Americans consume at least 50 percent more than that amount. The reason behind this overindulgence is that many common foods contain a deceiving amount of salt. One tortilla, three slices of deli meats, a cup of cottage cheese, and three ounces of imitation crab meat all contain at least a third of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. For people at risk of developing high blood pressure, it’s especially important to monitor the intake of these 26 common foods.