Salt: What is it? Why is it important? And how is it affecting your health?

Earlier this week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a nationwide, voluntary initiative to reduce sodium (also known as salt) in the American diet by decreasing the amount added to manufactured and commercially prepared foods. This has sparked a new round in the ever-going salt debate, leaving many to wonder; what is salt? Why is it so important? And how is it affecting our health?

The FDA's lofty goal is set to cut salt levels by an average of 12% over the next 2.5 years in foods ranging from packaged meats and cheeses, to your dinner entree at the local diner down the street. All in an attempt to make a serious dent in growing public health issues such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and more.

The agency wants to cut sodium intake to an average of 3,000 milligrams (mg) per day, compared to the current average of 3,400 mg. This is still well above the recommended amount of 2,300 mg per day for anyone above the age of 14 years old but, it's an amicable step in the right direction compared to many failed attempts over the past 40 years to reduce sodium intake. These previous attempts have all focused on the individual consumer, and not on the manufacturers and processors of food themselves. According to the FDA, "more than 70 percent of total sodium intake is from sodium added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation." So- what's the big deal?

Chips, dips, french fries, pretzels. These types of popular foods all have something in common—tons of salt. F