Canadians consuming too much salt

April 13, 2007 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Canadians consuming too much salt

A report released by Statistics Canada has found that Canadians of all ages are consuming too much salt, in some cases up to 85 percent more than the recommended upper limit.

The report, based on the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey found that the average sodium intake of Canadians was 3,092 mg per day, one-third more than the maximum amount recommended. Current recommendations suggest people over the age of 14 should get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. 

Overall, men consumed more sodium than women.  Eighty-five percent of men consumed more than the upper limit, with intakes averaging 4,100 mg per day.  Sixty percent of women consumed more than the upper limit, with intakes averaging 2,900 mg per day.  These estimates do not include salt added to food, which means the numbers are probably much higher in reality.

According to the report, even young children are consuming too much sodium.  Seventy-seven percent of children aged 1 to 3 years consumed more than the recommended daily limit, with an average intake of 2000 mg per day.

The report suggests a small number of foods account for close to a third of the sodium consumed.  Sandwiches (including pizza, subs, hamburgers and hotdogs) accounted for 19 percent of sodium intake.  Other foods that contributed the most salt included soups (7 percent of sodium intake) and pastas (6 percent of sodium intake).

To view the full report, click here.

Tips to help you shake the salt habit:

Read nutrition labels: The Nutrition Facts table lists the amount of sodium (in milligrams) per serving of the food. To quickly determine whether a food has a little or a lot of sodium, read the percent daily value (%DV) - your total for the day should be no more than 2,400 milligrams. Foods low in sodium will have a daily value of 5 per cent or less; that means they will contain no more 120 milligrams of sodium a serving (e.g. 0.05 x 2,400 = 120).

Remove or reduce the salt in your cooking: In most casseroles, stews and main dishes you can omit the salt during cooking. In baked goods it's usually safe to reduce salt by half without affecting quality and taste. If you buy packaged mixes for rice, pasta or soups, use only half the seasoning packet and boost flavour by adding fresh or dried herbs. Make your own salad dressings and sauces without added salt.

Rinse canned vegetables and legumes: When using canned foods like vegetables, lentils and legumes, rinse under running water before cooking to reduce sodium content.

Keep salt (and some condiments) off the table: Instead of reaching for that familiar white shaker, flavour foods without sodium by using garlic, ginger, lemon juice, lime juice, salsa, onion, vinegar and herbs. Many condiments including Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce (1,000 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon!), hot sauce, ketchup and mustard also contain sodium - so use them sparingly.

Limit processed foods: Limit your intake of processed meats such as bologna, ham, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats. Rely less on convenience foods such as canned soups and frozen dinners. When possible, choose lower sodium products. If you can't find them in your supermarket, ask your grocer to stock them.

Be assertive when dining out: Request that salt not be added and order sauces and dressings on the side so you can control the amount you use. If possible, check the restaurant's website for nutrition information before you head out.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.