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Functions and sources of sodium

Sodium is an essential nutrient found in varying quantities in processed foods. Salt (Sodium Chloride) enhances food flavours and adds to eating enjoyment. <Salt

WHY DO WE NEED SALT?

Sodium is required for the maintenance of blood pressure and for the generation and transmission of electrical impulses in nerves and muscles. The body tightly controls sodium balance.

HOW MUCH DO WE NEED?

In Canada, the percent daily value (upper limit) for sodium intake as referenced on the Nutrition Facts Table is 2400 mg. Interestingly this is equivalent to one teaspoon (6 g) of table salt. According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian consumes in excess of 3,000 mg of sodium a day. Research shows that lowering sodium consumption to optimal levels could reduce the incidence of stroke and heart disease by as much as 30 percent.

FUNCTIONS OF SODIUM

Sodium enhances the flavour of food, it helps preserve foods and contributes to the texture of certain products like cheese, processed meats, breads and other yeast-raised baked goods.

SOURCES OF SODIUM

Foods naturally contain negligible amounts of sodium. Most sodium is added during processing or at the table.

Table 1: Sodium Content in Some Common Foods

Product

Amount

Sodium Content

Table Salt 1 tsp 2400 mg
Tomato Ketchup 1 Tbsp 140 mg
Microwave Popcorn ½ bag 230 mg
Dijon Mustard 1 Tbsp 130 mg
Diced Tomatoes ½ cup 300 mg
Bread 2 slices 300 mg

TIPS FOR REDUCING YOUR SODIUM INTAKE

READ the Nutrition Facts Table on all products – you might be surprised at the sodium level ADD salt sparingly when you’re cooking – remember every shake counts! SEASON with fresh herbs and spices CHOOSE pepper rather than salt at the table – it adds great flavour LIMIT foods that are high in sodium

  • Preserved meats (e.g. bacon, ham, sausages and hot dogs)
  • Canned and packet soups and sauces
  • Olives, gherkins and pickled vegetables
  • Snacks and fast foods (e.g. potato chips and salted nuts)

Ref: Heart and Stroke Foundation website, 2007