Sodium makes up a large part of common table salt. Getting 1200 to 1500 mg per day, about ½ teaspoon, is considered adequate for adults. Most Canadians consume two to three times that amount. The most salt an adult should take in daily is 2300 milligrams, about one teaspoon. Children need even less salt.
Reducing the amount of salt you eat can protect your health. In countries like Canada, high blood pressure is the biggest risk for death. It can cause stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, and heart failure. About one in four adult Canadians has high blood pressure. Nine in ten Canadians will develop it if they live to an average age. However, reducing sodium could prevent almost one in three people from developing this condition.
Sodium content of some common
|Potato chips (10)||
|Cucumber (7 slices)||
|Dill pickle (1)||
|Pork (75 g = 3 oz)||
|Ham (75 g = 3 oz)||
|Bread (1 slice white)||
|Water (1 cup tap)||
|Antacid (sodium bicarbonate in water)||
|Tomato paste or sauce||
Up to 120 mg
Up to 600 mg
If you already have high blood pressure, it is definitely worth avoiding salt. Reducing sodium could prevent one in seven deaths from stroke and one in 11 from heart attack. Even lowering normal blood pressure slightly can reduce your chance of stroke or heart attack.
If you wake up thirsty at night, with a dry mouth and unpleasant taste, the cause may be the high salt food you ate earlier in the day.
Only about a tenth of sodium in the diet is naturally in foods. Another tenth is added while preparing food or at the table. Most salt in the diet comes from restaurant and prepared food. Sodium is added to change the taste and to make food weigh more and last longer. In restaurants, added sodium in food makes you thirsty so you will buy more drinks.
There is no easy way to know how much sodium is in restaurant food. A single meal at a fast food restaurant may contain more sodium than is healthy for a full day. Some fast food chains in Canada add more salt to food than the same restaurants in other countries.
The type of food you buy and eat from the grocery store is also important. Buying foods low in sodium requires care. Since some companies add more than twice the amount of sodium that other companies do, you must read food labels.
Processing increases the sodium content of most foods. Consider a tomato, which has about six milligrams of sodium. The same amount of tomato may have up to 10 times more sodium (60 mg) in paste or sauce, up to 20 times more (120 mg) in canned tomatoes, and up to 100 times more (600 mg) in soup (see chart at left).
3 tsp thyme
1-1/2 tsp sage
1-1/2 tsp rosemary
3 tsp marjoram
2 tbsp crushed savoury
1 tbsp dry mustard
2-1/2 tsp onion powder
1- 3/4 tsp curry powder
1-1/4 tsp white pepper
1-1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
5 tsp onion powder
2-1/2 tsp garlic powder
2-1/2 tsp paprika
2-1/2 tsp dry mustard
1-1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp celery seed
Some people do not like the taste of low sodium food. It can taste strange without the unhealthy amount of salt. It takes about six weeks to adjust to less sodium in the diet. If a big change is made, this may take longer. Once you are used to eating less sodium, then salty foods taste bad. Adding other flavours to your food may help you adjust, but check for sodium on the label.
You can make many small changes to lower your sodium intake.
Many aspects of your life affect blood pressure and your health. A healthy diet is very important in preventing and treating high blood pressure. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fibre and low fat diary products helps reduce blood pressure. A diet high in saturated fat (such as in meat) increases it and causes other health problems. A low sodium diet is an important part of a healthy diet.
Regular physical activity also prevents and treats high blood pressure and other health risks. Being overweight is also an important cause of hypertension. If you drink alcohol, limit it to two a day or less.
Certain diseases can also cause high blood pressure, although this is more unusual.
More information on eating a low salt diet
Canadian Hypertension Society, Canadian Hypertension Education Program, and Blood Pressure Canada www.hypertension.ca Click on the link under the ‘Public’ header
Dial-A-Dietitian – Nutrition Information – Heart Health: Nutrition for High Blood Pressure
Dietitians of Canada – Eat Well, Live Well – Frequently Asked Questions and Fact Sheets