Brief History: Salt in U.S. Food

Quentin Bacon / Corbis

Most of the salt Americans consume comes from processed foods, which may not taste salty at all.

Humans can't live without salt, but most Americans could do with far less of it. On average, they consume roughly twice the amount their bodies need. All that gorging has boosted rates of hypertension, heart disease and stroke, costing the U.S. up to $24 billion in health care costs and 150,000 lives every year. Amid growing public-health concern, PepsiCo announced plans to introduce a "designer salt" (its crystals are shaped in a way that wrings more taste out of smaller amounts) that will reduce the sodium in Lay's Classic potato chips and other snacks by 25% over the coming decade.

Sodium...

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