According to Health Canada, most Canadians consume about 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is more than double what the body needs to function properly (1,500 mg/day). Consuming too much sodium can cause hypertension, a silent disease that increases the risk of a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease.
Since sodium is a component of table salt, the first step in reducing our sodium intake is to avoid salted foods. According to an analysis of the American diet (which is very similar to the way Canadians eat), 44 percent of our daily sodium intake comes from 10 food groups. Which food is at the top of the list? Chips, pretzels..? Think again! It’s actually… bread!
A slice of bread isn’t all that salty, but when we eat two slices of toast in the morning, a sandwich at lunch and a few slices of baguette at dinner, these small quantities of sodium add up to a substantial total.
According to the American report, the five foods with the highest sodium content are bread, pizza, sandwiches (including hamburgers), deli meats and soups. It’s easy to see some overlap in these foods, since pizza and sandwiches are usually made with bread and deli meats!
The researchers also looked at how food sources affected the amount of salt. Not surprisingly, they found that foods cooked outside the home were much higher in salt than those prepared at home. Therefore, a home-made hamburger is usually much lower in sodium than those we eat at the restaurant. The same applies to home-made soup as opposed to store-bought soup.
In order to reduce our sodium intake, we therefore need to eat home-made foods as much as possible. When buying processed foods at the grocery store, look for the sodium content on the label, so that you can choose the option with the lowest amount of sodium. But be sure to look at the portions as well, because they can vary from one manufacturer to another: 200 mg of sodium in a 250 ml portion is much saltier than 250 mg of sodium in a 400 ml portion!