How Much Sodium is Too Much?

How Much Sodium is Too Much? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Most snack foods, fast food and other processed foods are high in salt.

Back in 2012, Health Canada released industry guidelines in effort to help reduce the amount of sodium that Canadians were consuming in their everyday diets, recommending the new average intake be reduced to 2,300 milligrams per day from the current average of 3,400 milligrams per day. To get an idea as to just how much sodium that is, 2,300 milligrams of sodium is equal to 1 teaspoon of salt. Unfortunately, as many as 80% of Canadians consume far more than the recommended 2,300 milligrams that Health Canada is proposing – and the percentage rate of sodium intake in children is even higher.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, says that while sodium is considered an essential nutrient that is required in small amounts to help the body properly function, he also says that having too much sodium in the diet can lead to a multitude of health problems – high blood pressure, most commonly; and having high blood pressure can also put you at risk of running into other issues with your health; things such as heart disease, stroke, and even kidney disease. According to the World Health Organization, high blood pressure is one of the leading preventable risk factors when it comes to death, and that risk can be lowered substantially by making a few small changes in your diet. By issuing their new guidelines, it was Health Canada’s goal to not only raise awareness on the aforementioned dangers of excessive sodium intake, but to also help consumers make more informed choices when it came to eating – from the foods they bought at the grocery store to whether they were cooking at home or dining out at restaurants. Of the foods high in sodium, things such as pantry breads, pancake and waffle mix, pre-packaged deli meats, frozen foods, canned entrees, salted nuts, cheese spreads/sauces, canned vegetables, salad dressing and marinades, and salted butter/margarine were atop the list.

Since releasing their guidelines 5 years ago, Health Canada says the sodium levels found in these foods have still not decreased as much as they were expecting – only by 1.9%. So what can Canadians do to ensure they’re reducing their sodium intake? The most important step is to find healthier alternatives, says Dr. Ali Ghahary. If you’re used to eating bread/toast for breakfast, have a muffin or a bowl of cereal instead. Rather than hamburger buns, turn that burger into a wrap by using a low-sodium flour tortilla. Instead of canned vegetables, buy your vegetables fresh and organic; and swap that butter and margarine for vegetable oil or mayonnaise. Also avoid cooking with salt. If you’re someone with strict dietary restrictions, speaking to your family doctor can be beneficial, as he or she will be able to tell you what foods you should and should not avoid. You can also find more healthy eating tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary by clicking here.

While there are currently no programs used to monitor or track the progress of sodium levels, the Food & Consumer Products of Canada – which represents a large number of companies that distribute the majority of food, beverage and other consumer goods that are found on many grocery store shelves today – says their industry is committed to a gradual reduction in the amount of sodium found in the food supply so that Canadians can live healthier, longer lives.