Sneaky Sodium

Sneaky Sodium

I’m no nutritionist at all… so take all this with a grain of salt!

I know that certain individuals must keep track of sodium for specific health reasons. However until recently, I never really paid attention to sodium levels. I rarely ever salt any of the food/meals/soups I make so I figured I didn’t have to worry much about it. I started doing some reading, and after having some chats with my trainer/nutritionist I’ve learned how high many diets are in sodium!

It is estimated that Canadians one year of age and older eat an average of about 3400 mg/day of sodium. This is more than twice the recommended AI (Adequate Intake) of 1500 mg/day for individuals from 9 to 70 years.

Probably one of the main reasons people choose the foods they eat (over convenience and health) is flavour wouldn’t you say? An easy way to make food taste “good”? add Salt! Seems innocent enough doesn’t it? And a few salty foods probably won’t do you any harm, however I’m willing to bet that many individual’s diets are fairly laden with sodium, and they may not even realize it.

I’ve learned that not all foods that contain sodium have that salty taste. Did you know that celery is fairly high in sodium? approximately 35 milligrams of sodium per stalk – that actually surprised me!

When it comes to purchasing packaged foods, soups etc. it most definitely pays to read labels. I used to just glance at “serving size”, “# of calories”, “grams of fat” and that is all I would look at. There’s so much more to a label than just that! Even if a product says “no added salt” still read that label & the ingredients! Don’t fool yourself by thinking that the sodium content listed on a nutritional label is for the entire package. Before you blow your entire day’s worth of sodium, determine exactly what one serving equals

Look for the percent (%) daily value of sodium in the Nutrition Facts table on food packages and try to choose foods that contain 5% or less. In the ingredients list, watch for other forms of sodium under these names: monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate and any compounds that have “sodium” in their name.

Excess sodium intake can be one of the culprits that leads to high blood pressure. High blood pressure contributes to the risk of heart and kidney disease and stroke. Though it can’t prevent high blood pressure, cutting back on salt can help regulate hypertension. It seems that even people who are otherwise healthy should moderate their sodium intake.

Get Balanced

Try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times! I try to get in a good variety (i.e. don’t just reach for that banana or apple or carrot stick) Why not try something new this week? What will you try?

Some foods that tend to have high sodium:

• All prepared foods (such as pizza, Chinese food and Mexican food)
• Packaged foods
• Chips
• Pretzels
• Popcorn
• Cottage Cheese
• Bread
• Cereal
• Canned soups and vegetables, broths, gravies
• Soy Sauce / Salad Dressings
• Sun Dried tomatoes
• Frozen meals
• Cured and smoked meats
• Bacon ham and sausage
• Smoked fish
• Natural and processed cheeses

Surprise it’s Sodium

As we move into the spring and summer months, iced coffee drinks top the list of people’s favourites. But the 220 mg of sodium lurking in your 16 oz Coffee Frappucino® from Starbucks will all but quench your thirst. Instead, try getting their 16 oz Iced Coffee with milk, which clocks in at only 30 mg of sodium!

People normally avoid bagels because of their high-carb count and not the 500 mg of sodium. Keep in mind, that’s 500 mg of sodium for a plain bagel (no cream cheese)! Breads—in general—are pretty salty, but if you’re craving carbs, reach for an English muffin, which has only 180 mg of sodium

Ready-to-Eat Cereals They seem safe enough, right? But take a closer look. Some brands of raisin bran have up to 250 milligrams of sodium per cup!
Maybe make your own Raisin Bran with Bran Flakes and less sugary raisins… or mix half of your favourite cereal with half of a sodium-free choice. Look for low-sodium cereals.

Hold that Salt Shaker – don’t pass the salt

Taste your meal before you decide to add salt! Maybe it will take a bit of time for your taste buds to adjust, but just think of all those other wonderful flavours out there that salt masks.

• Use citrus juice, like lemon and lime, to brighten up the flavor of food.
• Add fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, thyme and rosemary to your foods/soups for a savory punch without added salt.
• Use plain yogurt and dill on potatoes or flavour them with a drizzle of olive oil and rosemary.
• Try a new spice – add it to your Quinoa or rice – curry? Tumeric? Lemongrass? … why not?
• Use onions, chives and garlic to add flavour to sautés, stir-fries and sauces.
• When in doubt GARLIC …. ohhh I love garlic!

Label Jargon
Here’s a cheat sheet:

“Sodium-free”indicates that a product contains less than 5 milligrams (mg) sodium per serving.
“Very low-sodium”indicates that a product contains 35 mg sodium or less per serving.
“Low-sodium”indicates that a product contains 140 mg sodium or less per serving.
• “Reduced sodium”or “less sodium” indicates that a product contains at least 25% less sodium than the standard version. Note: Some “reduced sodium” products are still very high in sodium, so you’ll need to check the actual sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Panel to see if it fits into your low-sodium diet. For example, “reduced sodium” canned soups, though considerably lower in salt than regular canned soups, can still contain almost 500 milligrams sodium per 1-cup serving.
“Light in sodium”indicates that the product contains at least 50% less sodium than the standard version. Note: Some “light in sodium” products are still very high in sodium, so you’ll need to check the actual sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Panel to see if it fits into your low-sodium diet. For example, “light” or “lite” soy sauce, though considerably lower in salt than regular soy sauce, still contains 500-600 mg sodium per tablespoon.
“Unsalted”or “no salt added” indicates that no sodium (salt) is added to the product during processing, but the product still contains the sodium that naturally occurs in the product’s ingredients.
• If a product is labeled as “healthy”, it must contain no more than 480 mg sodium for an individual food item (like a snack food), or no more than 600 mg for a meal or main dish (like a frozen dinner).


7 thoughts on “Sneaky Sodium

      • Pretzels and popcorn are my ultimate weaknesses. I would go for them over chocolate any day! I’m fine with salt in home cooked meals (I never add it unless it really needs it!) but it’s those darns snacks. I know how bad it is for you too so I really try to keep an eye out.

      • I’m a HUGE popcorn lover! I make mine on the stovetop with a bit of coconut oil (and I do add some sea salt). however, instead of saying “NO MORE popcorn” I will limit myself to once a week. And if I’m really snacky feeling – I love roasting chickpeas (I think I must love the crunch!). Have you tried roasted chickpeas? Or I will bake my own tortilla chips and brush on a little oil w/ chili powder & cayenne pepper. I agree the snacking thing can be a hard thing to break!

  1. WEll, I”m not one to talk about an excessive salt intake, but I”m glad you’ve discovered the hidden sodium in things! Adding salt to things you cook from scratch is a heck of a lot better than eating packaged food and the sausages coils that Dad likes to eat!

    got some good deals (not food) at Costco today. I’ll call and tell you!

    love, mom

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