Sodium is a nutrient that the body needs in the amounts shown below (see below). It helps to regulate fluids and blood pressure, and to keep muscles and nerves working properly. However, having more sodium than recommended can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, which may lead to stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Sodium is found naturally in some foods and is found in table salt and in most convenience and processed foods. 77% of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods (e.g. processed meat, frozen dinners, and canned foods). See link below for sodium detector. Many Canadians get up to double the Upper Limit (maximum amount you should have) of 2300mg of sodium per day for adolescents and adults.
When grocery shopping, buy whole foods (carrots, rice, fish fillets) from around the perimeter of the store, and buy minimal processed foods such as frozen pizza and potato chips, as they are generally higher in sodium.
Check out Health Canada's Sodium Detector to learn how much salt is in the food you eat.
Sodium intake by age:
Table 1: Recommended sodium intake for healthy Canadians
| Age group
||Aim for this much (Adequate Intake)||More than this is too much (Upper Limit)|
|Infants 0-6 months||No data|
|Infants 7-12 months||370 mg/day||No data|
|Children 1-3 years||1000 mg/day||1500 mg/day|
|Children 4-8 years||1200 mg/day||1900 mg/day|
|Teens 9-13 years||1500 mg/day||2200 mg/day|
|Adults 14-50 years||1500 mg/day||2300 mg/day|
|Older adults over 70 years||1200 mg/day|
How to reduce your sodium
Below are some tips for how to reduce your sodium intake. These tips are broken down by Canada’s Food Guide groups. Use these tips when shopping and preparing food at home and while packing lunches.
Vegetables and Fruit
• Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned
• Choose canned vegetables that are reduced sodium or no salt added (canned tomatoes, green beans)
• Choose low sodium tomato sauce and vegetable juice
• Jazz up your veggies with salt free seasonings. Try lemon juice or fresh/dried herbs and spices
• Limit high salt sauces on veggies like soy sauce or cheese sauces
• Choose breads, cereals and baked goods that are lower in sodium
• Choose less processed grain products such as bulgur wheat, rice, barley and millet
Milk and Alternatives
• Choose fluid milk, yogurt and milk alternatives more often, as they are lower in sodium than some cheeses
• Compare nutrition labels on cheese, and choose the lower sodium options when possible
Meat and Alternatives
• Choose unprocessed meats most often (roast beef or pork chops), as processed meats can be higher in sodium (e.g. pepperoni, salami, ham)
• Choose unseasoned meat like leftover chicken or roast beef and season it yourself with herbs or your favourite additions (e.g. add garlic, thyme or rosemary while cooking)
• Choose unsalted nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, almonds or pistachios.
• Choose dried beans and lentils more often. If using canned beans, peas or lentils such as black beans or chickpeas, choose low or no salt added options and rinse/drain
For more tips on reducing your sodium visit Healthy Canadians and Hypertension Canada's Sodium 101.
Health effects of sodium
If you have heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, the recommendations for your sodium intake may be different. Speak to your doctor for specific guidelines and check out the links below. It is important to follow medical advice to reduce complications associated with these conditions.
Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Healthy Canadians, and Canadian Diabetes Association