Sodium is a mineral found in salt and has many important functions in the body. Sodium controls blood pressure along with muscle and nerve function. However, health problems can develop if too much sodium is consumed. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. The recommended sodium intake is 2/3 teaspoon of table salt (1500 mg), but Canadians consume on average double the daily recommendation.
To reduce sodium consumption, processed foods should be limited because sodium is often added to preserve food and add flavour. The main foods to avoid in terms of sodium per portion are processed meats. One of sodium’s main functions is to preserve the meats and in certain cases, it is added as a preservative in canned foods, cheeses, breads, cereals, sauces, commercial rice or pasta mixes and condiments.
There is a lot less sodium in natural foods like fresh and frozen vegetables, grains and unprocessed meats. Here are some examples of food with low sodium: rice, barley, quinoa, oats, wheat, dried peas, beans and lentils. Adding salt when cooking with these ingredients will not have big consequences. However, exceeding the recommended amount consistently could lead to some of the problems listed above. That is why it is important to check nutrition labels when buying foods and choose products with lower sodium.
Sara Jovovic and Stephanie Aboueid