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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 Content in Many Processed Foods Still Too High

Different Kinds Of Salts In Spoons

Did you know that 77% of the sodium in our diet comes from processed food? According to Health Canada, 80% of Canadians are eating too much sodium which can lead to hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. While sodium has been recognized as a public health issue for over a decade now, food manufacturers have been working to lower the sodium content of processed foods by the end of 2016 using Health Canada’s voluntary sodium reduction targets. Were their efforts good enough?

Background: In 2012, Health Canada published interim sodium targets (known as Phase I, Phase II and Phase III targets) for various categories of food. Food manufacturers had until the end of 2016 to reduce the sodium content of their foods to meet these target levels. This three phase approach was designed to encourage gradual sodium reductions while still maintaining product safety, quality and consumer acceptance of the food’s taste. The goal of these targets was to lower Canadians’ sodium intakes from 3,400 mg/day to under 2,300 mg/day without requiring consumers to actively choose lower sodium foods.

Evaluation Results: Last year, Health Canada evaluated the food industry’s efforts to meet these sodium reduction targets and recently reported the findings:
– 28% of food categories met Phase I sodium reduction targets (e.g. breads, crackers, hot instant cereals, canned vegetables and legumes)
– 10% of food categories met Phase II reduction targets (e.g. cookies, ready-to-eat cereals, vegetable juices)
– 14% of food categories met Phase III sodium reduction targets (e.g. cottage cheese, bacon bits, tomato paste, toddler mixed dishes)
– 48% of food categories did not make any progress in sodium reduction (e.g. dry cured and fermented deli meats, refrigerated and frozen appetizers and entrées, frozen potatoes).

2018 02 - sodium reduction results pie chart 4

Recommendations & Next Steps:
This evaluation report show that modest sodium reductions have been made in most categories of processed foods. While these reductions will still help Canadians consume less sodium, the results were overall disappointing to Health Canada. Voluntary targets may not be strong enough to reduce sodium in our food supply. A more structured voluntary approach may be needed. Other options include a regular sodium-monitoring program and public reduction commitments by manufacturers.

Health Canada plans to conduct an in-depth analysis of each food category and meet with industry stakeholders and scientific expert to better understand the challenges around food safety, shelf life and functional roles faced during efforts to reduce sodium.

With the proposed new front of pack labelling regulations, packaged foods high in sodium, sugars, and / or saturated fat will be identified with a specific icon or symbol. This new regulation will up the pressure for further sodium reductions in food. Sodium will also be a key consideration when Health Canada introduces new regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids.

Are you ready to reduce the sodium content of your products? Would you like to share your sodium reduction success story with consumers and media? We can help. Contact us at info@nutritionfornonnutritionists.com.

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

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!