This is a terrific question asked by participants at our recent N4NN 2017 course in Toronto. Did you know that the new Canadian Nutrition Facts Table now requires that BOTH sodium and potassium amounts be shown in a food? Discover the significance and impact of these important nutrients. Count on us as dietitians to share expert advice and science-based information.
Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte. Sodium is needed to maintain normal blood pressure, support your nerves and muscles, as well as regulate your body’s fluid balance.
In food, sodium acts to: enhance flavour, preserve freshness of food, increase shelf life of food, prevent food spoilage / bacterial growth, and allow bread to rise as well as cheese to ripen.
According to Statistics Canada, over 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods such as deli meats, cheese, pizza, soups and sauces.
We do need some sodium for good health, however Canadians eat on average 3,400 mg of sodium a day – this is more than double the amount we need. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. The 100% Daily Value (% DV) for sodium is 2,300 mg (down from the previous 2,400 mg).
Potassium is also an essential mineral and electrolyte. Potassium is needed to maintain normal blood pressure, regulate your body’s fluid balance, support muscle contractions and nerve impulses, as well as maintain a regular heart rhythm.
In food, potassium chloride is used to: enhance flavour, increase shelf life of foods, prevent food spoilage / bacterial growth, control pH of foods as well as reduce the sodium content of foods.
Best sources of potassium are beans (e.g. white beans, adzuki beans), potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, beets, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Potassium declaration on the Nutrition Facts Table is now mandatory with the new regulations, and the 100% Daily Value (% DV) has been upped to 4700 mg from 3500 mg.
Sodium is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. On the other hand, potassium acts as a vasodilator to lower the risk of high blood pressure. Health Canada has approved the following health claim, “A healthy diet containing foods high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.”
*Image source: time.com