Reduce Sodium in Your Diet
Whenever health experts refer to salt, what they are really talking about is sodium; sodium is a major component of salt.
We need a certain amount of sodium to help balance fluids and electrolytes in our bodies, but most of us consume two to three times the recommended amount. Why? Well, experts believe that most of the sodium we consume comes from the prepared foods we eat and not the salt we sprinkle on our foods at the table (which accounts for only 10% of total salt intake). Sodium is added to the packaged food by the manufacturers to make foods taste better, and, over time, we've become used to it. When we eat foods with little or no sodium, we may think it lacks flavour.
Most of the foods we eat contain some sodium, but many fast foods, prepared meals, processed meats (such as hot dogs and luncheon meats), canned soups, bottled dressings, bouillon cubes, and condiments (ketchup, mustard, pickles) usually contain the highest amount of sodium, contributing most of the sodium in our diets. "Restaurant foods can also be very high in sodium.
And that excess sodium can have grave consequences. Three in 10 Canadians have been diagnosed with high blood pressure caused by eating too much sodium. And while everyone can benefit from less sodium, certain people – about one-third of Canadians – are particularly sensitive to the blood-pressure-elevating effects of sodium. For these people, excessive sodium increases the amount of blood in arteries, raising blood pressure and putting them at risk for heart disease and stroke.
Heart & Stroke Health Check nutrient standards for sodium:
Cutting back on salt is a heart-smart strategy. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends we set a target of 2,300 mg or less per day, which is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of salt. That can add up pretty quickly.
Food Product Current Health Check criteria New criteria effective Nov. 2010:
Breads 360 mg or less
Cereals 240 mg or less
Vegetables 240 mg or less
Canned tomato and vegetable juices 480 mg or less
Milk 240 mg or less
Yogurt 140 mg or less
Cheese and cheese products 240 mg or less
Meats (including packaged deli meats, ground meat, canned meat, meatballs, sausages, burgers) 360 mg or less
Canned soups 480 mg or less
Dinner Entrees or mixed dishes 720 mg or less