March 5, 2011

022 Reducing Sodium [27 July 2009]

Reducing sodium consumption is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers estimate that cutting sodium consumption by 50% could prevent 14.500 cases of heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure in Canada each year.

Health Canada recommends daily intake of 1,500 mg of sodium; the average Canadian eats more than 3,500. And it’s not the salt shaker on the kitchen table that’s the problem – 80% of our sodium intake comes from hidden salt in processed foods.

The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Stroke Network, and Blood Pressure Canada are urging Canadian food industries to cut sodium by at least 1/3 to as much as 2/3 by 2020. As a consumer you can add pressure on the food industry by the choices you make. And don’t wait 11 years to cut back on your sodium consumption.

Here are three strategies you can implement now to reduce sodium in your diet:

  1. Eat more unprocessed foods. When you eat it raw or cook it yourself you can control the amount of salt. Replace the salt shaker on your table with a flavorful low-sodium vegetable seasoning.
  2. In the grocery store, read labels and choose items with the lowest sodium content. This can vary as much as 10 times for the same food. Every purchase of a low sodium item sends a message to the food manufacturers who will respond with more low sodium selections.
  3. In restaurants, soup is one of the main sodium culprits.  Choose a salad instead; and ask for oil & vinegar dressing (prepared dressings can be high in sodium). If you do try the soup and it tastes salty, tell your server you won’t eat it and why. If enough people send this message back to the cooks they will eventually cut back on the salt ladle.
Seniors may have the greatest challenge to cut back on salt. We [I’m 55 today – does that qualify?] were more likely raised with a liberal salt shaker, and as we age our taste buds don’t work as well. Adding more salt is one way to make food tastier; a better way is with healthy spices. I enjoy adding ginger and chili pepper to my soup and casseroles.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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