How to reduce salt in your diet

While a pinch of salt is good for the average diet, studies show that most Canadians are consuming an unhealthy amount and developing serious health issues. These expert tips can help the entire family reduce their sodium intake and have healthier eating habits.  

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

What is salty
Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Tsuji
Canada has a very salty food supply. While a small amount of dietary sodium is required for normal muscle functioning, most Canadians consume double the required amount – and that’s wreaking havoc on our health.

Perhaps it’s time to re-examine your family’s sodium intake, whether it comes from school lunches, afternoon snacks or meals served at the family table.

Sodium levels are heartbreaking

“Too much sodium can lead to hypertension,” says Dr. Norm Campbell, a professor of medicine at the University of Calgary whose expertise lies in hypertension prevention and heart health.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major cause of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in Canada. It’s also a risk factor for stroke and kidney disease.

“In Canada, two million people have hypertension because of excess salt intake,” says Campbell. Yet studies show that one-third of them would have normal blood pressure if they reduced their sodium intakes to a healthier level.

“It is estimated that one in seven deaths from stroke and one in 11 deaths from heart disease could be prevented if Canadians reduced their sodium intakes by 1,840 milligrams per day,” says Carol Dombrow, a registered dietitian with the Heart & Stroke Foundation. This decrease in sodium intake would also produce a health-care savings of almost $3 billion.

Reducing sodium in food
The Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Health Check program has helped reduce sodium levels in Canadian foods. Foods bearing the Health Check logo must meet certain sodium requirements.

From 2004 to 2008, 150 products were reformulated to meet the Health Check criteria for sodium, which resulted in a total reduction of 800,000 kilograms of salt. “That’s equivalent to 88 dump trucks of salt being driven out of the Canadian food supply,” says Dombrow.

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