By Associated Press Writer
updated 6/15/2010 11:54:40 AM ET 2010-06-15T15:54:40

An advisory panel is encouraging the government to recommend that Americans reduce their salt intake — even though they acknowledge that it won't be easy.

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The panel, appointed by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, makes dietary recommendations every five years that serve as the basis for the government's popular food pyramid and for a range of federal nutrition programs, including school lunches.

This year's preliminary recommendations, which will be reviewed by the agencies and open to the public for comment, suggest that daily sodium intake should be reduced from 2,300 mg to 1,500 mg per day. Current guidelines recommend the higher amount.

That recommendation follows that of the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which said earlier this year that people need just 1,500 mg daily for good health, less if they're over 50. Average consumption is more than 3,400 mg.

The panel says it will be "challenging to achieve the lower level" and that the reduction in sodium should take place gradually over time. They do not say how gradually the reduction should be.

The report says Americans of all ages don't consume enough vegetables, fruits, seafood, high-fiber whole grains, low-fat milk or milk products. At the same time, people eat too many added sugars, solid fats, refined grains and sodium.

A final version of the dietary guidelines is expected by the end of the year. Other recommendations by the advisory committee include:

  • Shifting dietary patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds
  • Improving nutrition education, cooking skills and safe food handling know-how for families with children, in particular, to motivate them to prepare and consume healthy foods at home
  • Improving affordability of fresh produce and other healthy foods.

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