Sodium is needed in the body to regulate fluids and blood pressure, and to keep muscles and nerves running properly. The recommended amount of sodium for an adult is 1,500 mg per day. Sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 mg per day. Most Americans and Canadians, however, consume much more sodium than needed to maintain good health and proper balance in the body. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, Canadian adults consume an average of 3,092 mg of sodium a day, which is double the recommended amount.

High sodium diet is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, heart failure, and kidney problems. Hypertension affects about 50 million Americans – one in four adults.

Despite numerous warnings from the health care professionals about the risks of the high-sodium diet, people still consume too much sodium. Part of the problem is that many of us don’t realize that table salt is not the only source of sodium in the diet. Some popular foods, such as canned vegetables, processed meats, tomato sauces, are high in sodium due to the way they are prepared and ingredients used for flavourings and preservatives.

Food might not even taste salty but still have high sodium content. Take buttermilk pancakes, for example. Buttermilk itself is high-sodium product, then, there’s baking soda, and probably a bit of table salt to make the pancakes taste good. A bowl of cornflakes cereal, for instance, has about the same amount of salt as a small package of plain chips.

How do reduce sodium consumption in a diet?

  1. Read nutrition labels. Most pre-packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts table that shows the amount of sodium and percentage of the daily value. A can of V8 vegetable juice has about 600 mg of sodium (29% of the daily value). Buy foods with low or reduced sodium content.
  2. When cooking, put less salt than suggested in a recipe.
  3. Add spices and herbs instead of salt to enhance the taste and flavour of the food.
  4. Do not keep salt shaker on the dining table. Keep in mind that 1 teaspoon contains about 6 grams of salt, which equals 2400 mg of sodium.
  5. Eat less fast and take-out foods – they’re always high in sodium.
  6. Reduce the consumption of processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, ham, salami, hot dog, and all deli meats. Bacon, for example, contains about 2000 mg of sodium per 100 g.
  7. Stay away from canned vegetables and canned vegetable juices. Choose fresh vegetables instead.
  8. Avoid pre-packaged meals, such as frozen dinners, or choose the ones with low-sodium content.
  9. Control the consumption of soups, sauces (especially soy sauce, tomato sauces, ketchup, mayonnaise), and dressings (use olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead).
  10. Choose healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, instead of chips and pretzels.

Check how much you know about sodium. Click here to take a fun quiz from the American Heart Association and test your sodium smarts.