Your sodium intake may be off the charts. Ever read the label of a food product and see that the daily value of sodium in the product is 30%? You think that’s not a lot, then eat a few more foods with 30% daily value for sodium. Then a few with 10%. Suddenly your intake for the day is 120%. Not so bad right? More is better?
In my experience as a Registered Dietitian and university lecturer, Canadians know that sodium, or salt as it is commonly referred to, is a micronutrient that too much of can be a bad thing. High intakes of sodium are related to high blood pressure, or hypertension. May is Hypertension Awareness month for Hypertension Canada, so it is a great time to talk about sodium.
In March 2019, the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for sodium and potassium were updated. These are the recommended intakes for Canada and the United States as set by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Prior to this update, there were 2 numbers for sodium – the Adequate Intake (AI) which is the recommended average daily intake for apparently healthy people that is assumed to be adequate based on observation of experimental data (we do not have enough data to set a recommended daily allowance, RDA).
The other number used to be the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). In the new 2019 DRIs, the UL was removed for sodium and changed to a new category called the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDRR). The UL is meant to be based on toxicity, though had been set at 2300 mg sodium for adults based on chronic disease risk. With the help of a new report Guiding Principles for Developing Dietary Reference Intakes Based on Chronic Disease, the committee set the CDRR for sodium at 2300 mg (what used to be the UL – so the number is the same, the name is changed).
The report states:
“CDRR is established using evidence of the beneficial effect of reducing sodium intake on cardiovascular disease risk, hypertension risk, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure. Reduction of sodium intakes above the sodium CDRR is expected to reduce chronic disease risk within the apparently healthy population.”
What does all this mean for you?
Well, we do need sodium, so do not think you need to cut your intake completely. Some people even need more sodium to account for losses in sweat. If your work and activity do not involve heavy sweating, your needs are not likely higher. Just being more aware of your sodium intake is a step in the right direction and can lead to overall improvements in your diet. Depending on your food choices, you may be getting well over 2300 mg per day.
A couple reasons why:
- Most of the sodium we eat is already in processed, packaged foods.
From frozen dinners to canned soup. The more we make meals at home, the more in control we are of the sodium content (and everything else!). And yes, you can still add some salt in your home cooking!
- The “Daily Value” percentage on the nutrition facts panel for sodium is based off of 2300 mg, not the 1500 mg. If you get more than 100% in a day, you are consuming more than the CDRR.
Take home points:
- Start reading labels for sodium (see my video on Instagram for some how-to advice).
- Choose lower sodium options when purchasing packaged foods: low sodium soy sauce, canned tomato or beans with no sodium added, etc. There are plenty of low-cost options.
- Think your sodium intake is high? Do not panic! Small changes to your food choices will add up over time and likely lead to decreased sodium intake, as well as other positive changes. If you need help, contact me for a nutrition assessment.
- Find you add salt to your food at home? Try substituting some of it for herbs and spices.
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