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Test Your Sodium IQ

 

Split screen image of TV host Anne Marie Mediwake and dietitian Sue Mah

Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death globally (1). Eating too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Here are 5 questions to test your sodium IQ!

  1. True or False: We need sodium to stay healthy.
  2. True or False: Sodium is the same thing as salt.
  3. True or False: Sea salt is healthier for you than table salt.
  4. True or False: You can tell which foods are high in sodium because they taste salty.
  5. True or False: Most of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker.

For the answers, watch Sue’s national TV interview on YouTube or read the full article below.

 

 

 

 

1. True or False: We need sodium to stay healthy.

True!  We do need some sodium to maintain our blood pressure and fluid levels in our body. Sodium is also needed to keep our muscles and nerves running smoothly. The problem is that most of us are getting too much sodium, which can lead to health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease.

On average, we should stick to less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, but we’re eating about 1½ times that amount (2). In fact, 3 out of 5 Canadians eat too much sodium (2). A report by Health Canada found that 72% of kids between the ages of 4 to 13 are eating too much sodium. And over 95% of males aged 19-30 are eating too much sodium (2).

Eating too much sodium today can lead to high blood pressure later in life. According to a report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 20% of Canadians have high blood pressure or hypertension, and another 20% of Canadians have pre-hypertension (where their blood pressure is above normal but not quite diagnosed as high yet) (3).

2. True or False: Sodium is the same thing as salt.

False!  Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Sodium is a mineral that’s found naturally in foods and / or added to foods. Salt or table salt is a combination of sodium plus chloride. Salt is the main source of sodium. Other sources of sodium include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium benzoate (a preservative) and monosodium glutamate (a seasoning).

3. True or False? Sea salt is healthier for you than table salt.

False!  The main differences between sea salt and table salt are the taste, texture and how they’re made.

Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water and can taste differently depending on where it’s from. There are some trace minerals in sea salt such as calcium and iron, but the amounts are very low. The sea salt crystals can be large.

Table salt is made from fine crystals mined from ancient dried up salt lakes, and then ground to give it a finer texture. You may find iodine in table salt – it’s a nutrient that’s added to lower the chances of developing an iodine deficiency.

Kosher salt is the same as table salt, but has larger crystals and no iodine. And Pink Himalayan salt is actually mined in Pakistan. The pink color is from the iron in the salt.

By weight, all of these types of salt have about the same amount of sodium as table salt.

By volume however, (i.e. if you’re measuring it with a teaspoon), sea salt, Kosher salt and Pink Himalayan salt will have slightly less sodium because they have larger crystals.

Whichever type of salt you prefer, use less to cut down on your overall sodium intake. Boost the flavour of food with sodium-free ingredients like herbs, spices, garlic, lemon juice or citrus zest.

4. True or False? You can tell which foods are high in sodium because they taste salty.

False!  Some foods such as bread and cereal don’t really taste salty, but they do contain sodium. Sodium can also be hidden in salad dressings, soups, pasta sauces, different condiments and baked goods like cookies and muffins. Read food labels and look for foods that generally contain less than 15% of the Daily Value (%DV) for sodium. Or look for foods that are specifically labelled “low sodium”.

The image below shows a Nutrition Facts table for crackers. You can see that 4 of these crackers contain 6% of the Daily Value (DV) for sodium. A %DV that is 5% or less is considered “a little” and a %DV that is 15% or higher is considered “a lot”.

Nutrition Facts table for crackers, showing 6% DV for sodium

Image source: Sue Mah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. True or False? Most of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker.

False!  Only about 11% of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker when we add salt to our cooking or to our food at the table Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods. The rest is from sodium found naturally in foods.

In fact, the top 6 sources of sodium in are diet are:

  • Bakery products (e.g. bread, muffins) – salt is added to baking, and even though the food doesn’t taste very salty, but we tend to eat a lot of these foods, so the sodium adds up
  • Appetizers and entrées (e.g. pizza, frozen meals)
  • Processed meat
  • Cheese
  • Soups
  • Sauces and condiments

Fast food / restaurant meals also tend to be higher in sodium. Sodium is added to foods to act as a preservative and also to bring out the flavour of foods. To cut back on sodium, enjoy more wholesome fruits and veggies because they’re essentially sodium-free. If you’re making a recipe, try cutting down on the ingredients which contain sodium. If you’re eating out, ask for sauces, salad dressings and gravy on the side so that you can control the amount of sodium that you eat.

 

References:

1) World Heart Foundation (no date). World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29 September. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from https://www.world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/about-whd/

2) Health Canada (no date). A salty situation. Retrieved Sept 20, 2020 from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/publications/food-nutrition/infographic-salty-situation/26-18-2058-Sodium-Infographic-eng-08.pdf

3)  Heart and Stroke Foundation (2014 August). Position statement – Dietary sodium, heart disease and stroke. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/2017-position-statements/dietary-sodium-ps-eng.ashx?rev=29762d89e1e3446084fa988ac9b0c3d7&hash=6523A0B22CEB23AC5B87207DB5C00E8C

 

 

Sodium versus Potassium – What’s the Difference?

You asked from time dot com

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-Potassium Relationship
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

Spotlight on Metabolic Syndrome – Highlights from the Canadian Nutrition Society Conference

CNS 2016 conf snag it cropped 4

Metabolic Syndrome is a dangerous health condition affecting 1 in 5 Canadians. Despite it’s prevalence, little is known about metabolic syndrome. At the Canadian Nutrition Society’s 2016 Conference, experts shed light on this growing public health crisis.

Metabolic Syndrome was only identified about 20 years ago and is not a disease itself but a group of health conditions that includes high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, and excess abdominal fat. People with metabolic syndrome are also more likely to have chronic inflammation, another sign of health in danger.

Lucia & Penny K-E CNS lowe resolution

Lucia Weiler, RD & Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished Professor of Nutrition

Here are the key takeaway messages from the conference:

  • Dr Penny Kris-Etherton, Pennsylvania State University shared, “The power of a healthy diet is remarkable in lowering metabolic syndrome risk.” A high quality diet that especially includes more fruit and vegetable intake reduces risk of metabolic syndrome. Best results are achieved with concurrent weight loss, but changing to a healthy diet improves metabolic syndrome even without weight loss.
  • Dr. Wendy Ward, Brock University explained that diabetes weakens bone structure and increases the risk of bone fractures in people with metabolic syndrome.
  • Gut bacteria contribute to positive health. Dr Comelli, University of Toronto recommended we should aim to have a diverse gut microbiome that resembles a diverse rainforest not a barren desert.
  • Dr. Angelo Tremblay, Laval University agreed and stated that “Yogurt is the best player of the dairy food team” because it is nutrient dense and provides probiotics to boost good gut bacteria.
  • Dr. Benoit Lamarche, Laval University reviewed the new research on saturated fatty acids and its impact on heart disease. He stressed the importance to identify the source of dietary saturated fat and to advise individuals to enjoy whole, unprocessed foods more often to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Lamarche praised the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s position statement on Saturated Fat, Heart Disease and Stroke.
  • Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy, University of Toronto and the father of clinical nutrition in Canada introduced a Metabolic Syndrome CHANGE program and offered these 3 tips for for dietary change:
    1. Advise people they have Metabolic Syndrome
    2. Explain to them it is a life threatening condition
    3. Engage patients and provide them with personalized tools for change best suited to them
  • Finally, Jennifer Sygo, Registered Dietitian closed the conference by sharing practical tips for helping clients make meaningful nutirition and lifestyle changes to achieve their personal health goals. There is no magic diet – rather, the best diet for weight loss is the one that works for you and you can stick to it. Dietitians provide credible, evidence-based information, and translate the science into the context of the whole diet for consumers to understand.