What is sodium?
Sodium is an essential mineral needed by the body. As an electrolyte, sodium facilitates muscle contraction and carries impulses throughout the body’s network of nerve cells. Sodium also works closely with potassium to maintain normal fluid balance in the body. While some sodium is needed for health, consuming too much may have negative health consequences, such as an increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart and kidney diseases. High sodium intake is also associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis.
How much do we need?
Health Canada recommends limiting daily sodium intake to approximately 1,500 mg per day, and not exceeding 2,300 mg. This is easily achievable with some conscientious choices, although it is not without its challenges. Approximately 77-80% of the sodium we consume comes from prepared or processed foods, making it difficult to monitor and control our intake. Naturally occurring sodium accounts for another 12% of our intake with the balance coming from the salt added at the table and during cooking. It is estimated that 85% of men between the ages of 19 and 70 exceed the recommended upper level of 2,300 mg per day and 60% of women in the same age group do so as well.
Lowering your sodium naturally
Reducing sodium is easier than you may think. Here are a few simple tips and substitutions you can make to help lower your sodium intake without needing to count the milligrams:
- Read ingredient lists. If sodium is listed in the first five ingredients, or listed more than once, the product is likely high in sodium.
- Use the %DV (Daily Value) on the Nutrition Facts Table to choose products that have less than 10% of sodium per serving. Be sure to note the serving size used.
- Look for prepared foods that are low-sodium or sodium-free.
- Choose fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
- Replace deli meats with fresh meats, such as chicken, fish, and beef, which are naturally low in sodium.
- Use condiments sparingly and choose low-sodium versions when possible.
- Flavour foods with lemon juice, herbs and spices, and flavoured vinegars instead of salt.
- Limit instant foods like noodles and hot cereals.
- Use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned versions.
- Rinse canned foods like beans, lentils, and even tuna under running water for 60 seconds.
- Limit fast food consumption.
- Control your sodium intake by cooking more of your own meals at home.
Chicken Farmers of Canada has many recipe options that are low in sodium and big in flavour. Try these quick and easy options and they will soon become your low-sodium favourites.