Dietitians normally recommend low-sodium diets to people at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, reports the University of California at San Francisco. Because about 80 percent of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods rather than table salt, this type of diet requires significant adjustments.
On average, Americans consume 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day, while the recommended daily value of sodium is 2,300 milligrams, as UCSF explains. Dietitians recommend this value to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The primary source of sodium in the American diet is bread, notes UCSF. Combining that with other commonly consumed cereals means that people get a third of their total sodium from grains. Canned soup is a popular option, but just one can of soup might provide most of the recommended daily intake of sodium.
Other sources of dietary sodium include processed lunch meats, such as ham and turkey, as UCSF explains. Some manufacturers inject fresh meats, such as poultry, with salty solutions before sending them to grocers. Food prepared outside the home, such as ready-to-eat meals and meals served in restaurants, contributes another third of Americans' sodium intake.
Adding salt boosts flavor in processed foods cheaply and extends the shelf life in some cases, according to UCSF. With fresh meat, salt helps with water retention, giving the packaging a higher weight.