Research suggests that limiting the amount of sodium in your diet can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Many of us are well aware of this important health information.
Even so, Statistics Canada reports the average Canadian consumes more than double the recommended levels of sodium each day. The recommended levels vary by age and are:
- 19-50 years - 1.5 grams (1500 mg) per day
- 50-70 years - 1.3 grams (1300 mg) per day
- >70 years - 1.2 grams (1200 mg) per day
Clearly, shaking the salt habit can be challenging, but it’s something we all need to do for our health. This article provides some useful tips about how to achieve this goal.
Why cutting back is important
The World Health Organization estimates that high blood pressure (or hypertension) is the leading risk factor for death around the world. One of the causes of high blood pressure is excessive levels of sodium in the diet. Eating large amounts of sodium can also put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, asthma and kidney stones.
Choose foods that are low in sodium
When shopping for groceries, look for the following items.
- Grain products: whole grains prepared or cooked without added salt (oats, barley, rice, bulgur wheat); breads, rolls and homemade quick breads made without salt (muffins, banana bread, cornbread); unsalted whole-grain crackers or pretzels; most dry whole-grain cereals
- Vegetables and fruit: fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits without added salt; low-salt or low-sodium canned vegetables; low-salt or low-sodium vegetable juice, canned fruit and fruit juice
- Milk and alternatives: milk; yogurt; low-sodium or low-salt cheese
- Meats and alternatives: fresh meat, fish or poultry; legumes (beans) without added salt; eggs; unsalted nuts, seeds and peanut butter
Avoid using the salt shaker
You have 100 per cent control over the sodium (salt) that you add to foods.
- Avoid salting foods during preparation or at meals.
- Store your salt shaker in an inconvenient, hard-to-reach place so that you aren’t temped to use it.
- If you must shake something on your food, use herbs instead. Buy or make your own blends of herbs and spices to flavour foods.
Avoid processed foods
Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods. Canned food, packaged soup, sauce mixes and snack foods like pretzels or potato chips contain large amounts of sodium - so use these products sparingly.
Health Canada and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (Institute of Medicine) have determined that an adequate daily intake for a healthy adult is 1,200 to 1,500 mg of sodium. Using these numbers as a guide, read the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods before deciding what to put in your grocery cart.
Taste the food, not the salt
Salt enhances the flavour of foods but you can get too much of a good thing. Adding too much salt can mask the taste of the food and take away from its unique flavour.
To taste your food instead of the salt:
- Choose a variety of nutritious foods that have been minimally processed. Unprocessed vegetables and fruit, whole grains, milk and meat contain relatively small amounts of sodium.
- Look for fresh rather than canned vegetables and fruit.
- Make your own soup, and season it with herbs and spices. Learn how to make homemade low-sodium chicken stock.
- Enjoy unseasoned, home-cooked meat or poultry instead of pre-packaged products like wieners or sausages.
- Taste your food first. Don’t automatically add salt.
The lowdown on salt
Cutting back on sodium can help to prevent high blood pressure and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and even osteoporosis. Take control by saying good bye to your salt shaker and choosing simple, nutritious food that tastes great just the way it is.
Information about how much salt you need each day and easy-to-follow ideas for low-salt eating.
Heart and Stoke Foundation
Reliable advice on cutting back on salt.
Practical tips for cutting back on salt.
Low Sodium (Salt) Cooking
Information from HealthLink BC.