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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

 

 

NEW Front of Pack Labelling Update – 3 tips on how you can prepare for the big changes ahead.

N4nn fop labelling nov 2017
Photo Credit: Health Canada

  1. WHAT?
    Front-of-Package Nutrition Labelling update is out – read it here!

Health Canada just published the future of Front-of-Package (FOP) nutrition labelling based on proceedings from Sept. 18, 2017 Stakeholder Engagement Meeting. The document’s summary and subsequent social media comments from scientists and regulators signal big changes for food makers.  Although ‘no firm decisions were reached and re-designed symbols would be subjected to further consultations,…Health Canada concluded that a mandatory ‘high in’ front-of-package labelling system is the most appropriate to use’.  Front-of-Package examples included warning symbols implemented in other countries such as Chile and Ecuador. Are you ready for something like this?

N4NN 2017 fop graphic

  1. SO WHAT?
    Consider if your packaged foods may have to show warning labels on front-of-package.

The ‘high in’ Front-of-Package label approach may require a black and white warning label on pack in the future but consumers already have a tool to focus on the 3 nutrients of public health concern in the NEW nutrition facts table (NFT). Have you considered what the % Daily Value (% DV) for sugars, sodium and saturated fat tells about foods? The NFT footnote explains the % DV as this:  5% or less is a little, 15% or more is a lot. The new FOP will make sure that the negative attributes of food products are represented to help Canadians make informed food choices. Health Canada recognizes that there is a gap in labelling between packaged foods and those sold in in grocery or restaurants.  Future work with provincial and territorial counterparts will aim to find the best way to provide nutrition information in restaurants and other food service establishments.

  1. NOW WHAT?
    Speak to a Registered Dietitian with food labelling expertise to plan your strategies.

Health Canada says ‘discussion is very important in moving this forward and we need to get it right’. We agree and encourage you to connect with Registered Dietitians who are regulated professionals accountable to the public based on the highest standards of science and ethics.  Our influence runs deep and we look beyond the fads and gimmicks to deliver reliable advice that supports healthy living for all Canadians.

Contact us to help you meet the demands of rethinking food labelling and to guide your team in unlocking food’s nutrition potential.

 

5 Nutrition Myths – Busted!

hosts + Sue - 2

Test your nutrition IQ with this fun 5-question quiz!

Watch Sue’s interview clip on CTV Your Morning!


1) TRUE or FALSE: Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.

Answer: FALSE

There really is no nutritional difference between brown eggs and white eggs. The main difference is in the hens. Generally speaking, white eggs come from hens with white feathers, and brown eggs come from hens with brown feathers!

Brown hens are slightly larger birds and need more food, so that may be a reason why brown eggs usually cost more than white eggs.


2) TRUE or FALSE: You need to drink 8 cups of water every day.

Answer: FALSE

Actually, it’s recommended that women get 9 cups of FLUID every day and men get 12 cups of FLUID every day. If you’re exercising, or if the weather is hot and humid, you may even need more fluid.

Fluid comes from the food you eat and the beverages that you drink – so milk, soup, coffee, tea, watermelon, grapes – all of that counts towards your fluid intake for the day. So the actual amount of water you need really depends on what you’re eating and drinking.

Water is always an excellent choice because it’s calorie-free and very refreshing. And here’s the best tip – take a look at your urine. If it’s light or clear, then it usually means that you’re getting enough fluids. But if it’s dark yellow, then it’s a sign of dehydration and you need more fluids.


3) TRUE or FALSE: Sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt.

Answer: TRUE

By weight, sea salt and table salt have the same amount of sodium. By volume though, sea salt does contain a little less sodium because sea salt crystals are larger.

The biggest differences between sea salt and table salt are: taste, texture and source.
Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater and tastes different depending on where it’s from. Sea salt does contain very small amounts of trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Table salt is mined from dried-up ancient salt lakes. Some table salts include iodine, a nutrient that helps prevent thyroid disease (goiter).

4) TRUE or FALSE: Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning is a good way to detox your body.

Answer: FALSE

There is nothing magical about lemon water. Drinking lemon water in the morning actually adds extra acid into your empty stomach and this can give you a stomachache.
Another problem with lemon water is that the acid from the lemon can erode / wear down your tooth enamel. If you really love to drink lemon water, try to have a plain glass of water afterwards, and wait at least 15 minutes before brushing your teeth.

5) TRUE or FALSE: Energy drinks give you energy.

Answer: TRUE

Energy can mean calories. A bottle of energy drink can have about 100 calories, so in that sense, yes, you’re getting energy!

Energy can also mean physical energy. Energy drinks typically contain caffeine which is a stimulant. One cup of an average energy drink has almost as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. So in that sense, energy drinks will make you feel energized and alert.

The problem is that energy drinks also contain added sugar – up to 7 teaspoons in a serving- yikes! And there’s also herbal ingredients. Energy drinks are a no-no for kids, teens and pregnant/breastfeeding women.

What’s the best way to feel energized? Eat well, be active, stay hydrated and get enough sleep!