How much salt do we need?

We consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day … that’s more than double the amount needed for a healthy adult!  High sodium intake puts us at risk for high blood pressure – a major risk factor for stroke, heart and kidney disease.  Stroke and heart disease are leading causes of death and disability.  Research suggests that reducing the amount of sodium in our diet could prevent many premature deaths from heart disease and stroke.  To address this issue, we need to reduce the amount of sodium in our diet.

What is sodium and where is it coming from?

Sodium (Na), also known as sodium chloride, is a chemical element found in table salt.  The bulk of our sodium intake (over 75%) comes from processed foods, with the balance from natural sources or from your salt shaker.  Restaurant foods, especially fast foods, generally have high sodium content.  Sodium is also used liberally by the food industry to enhance flavour and as a preservative.

Do we need sodium in our diet?

We certainly do.  Sodium is essential to good health.  Without sodium we would cease to exist.  Sodium is important for hydration in our bodies as it maintains the electrolyte balance of the body’s cells.

 That’s why, after exercise or heavy exertion, we need to replace both water and salt lost through perspiration.  While our bodies need sodium to function, too much can be detrimental to our health.

How much salt do we need?

The recommended intake of sodium for people 1 year and older ranges from 1000 mg per day to 1500 mg per day.  This is way below our current daily intake.  Because it’s hard to kick the salt habit – some even call it an addiction – try a gradual reduction of sodium in the diet.  The target is to reduce sodium to 2300 mg (1 teaspoon) per person per day by 2016.  This should give people time to adapt their taste buds – yes, we do have a taste bud just for salty foods – and should also give the food industry time to find alternate means to process food.

What can YOU do to reduce your sodium intake?

  • Eat fresh, unprocessed foods instead of pre-packaged, convenience foods
  • Choose more fruits and vegetables which are low in sodium but contain potassium which helps to reduce the risk of high blood pressure
  • If you have to use canned vegetables, rinse them first to wash off the salt
  • Check food labels for sodium content and choose products with 140 mg sodium or less
  • Prepare foods with little or no salt and resist adding salt at the table – use herbs and spices instead
  • If you do eat out, be judicious about choices and ask for nutrition information
  • Lobby for availability of sodium chloride reduced salt like PAN SALT available in Finland
Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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