Too much sodium in the average Canadian diet

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians consumer far more sodium then what is recommended.

In July 2009, a report released by World Action on Salt — a British-based group established in 2005 to help gradually reduce global salt intake — found that sodium levels in a selection of processed and fast foods tended to be higher in Canada than in other countries.

Kellogg's All Bran, for instance, contains 0.65g of salt per 100g in the United States, and about 1.13g of salt per 100g in the United Kingdom. But in Canada, it contains 2.15g of salt per 100g in Canada.

That's about 620 milligrams per bowl -- or more than one-third of the daily recommended intake for people aged nine to 50.

A serving of Burger King onion rings has 1,500 milligrams of sodium per serving -- more than 100 per cent of the daily recommended intake. A serving of BK onion rings in the UK has just 500 mg -- even though the serving size in the UK is about 30 per cent larger.

A serving of KFC Popcorn Chicken has 2,271 mg of sodium in Canada; in Malaysia, a similar-sized serving has 1,690 mg.

Your body needs some sodium to function properly. It is the primary electrolyte that regulates fluid levels in the body. Sodium keeps your body hydrated by pumping water into the cell. In turn, potassium flushes the byproducts of cellular processes out of the cell, eventually eliminating these "wastes" from the body. Your kidneys help regulate the amount of sodium in your body. When levels are low, the kidneys conserve the mineral. When levels are high, the kidneys excrete salt in your urine.

If your kidneys can't get rid of enough sodium, it begins to accumulate in your blood. And that can cause problems because sodium attracts and holds water. More sodium increases blood volume, which in turn makes your heart work harder to move the blood through your body.

High sodium intake can push up your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests Canadian adults consume no more than five millilitres of salt (2,300 milligrams of sodium or a teaspoon of salt) per day. However, most adults consume far more than the recommended amount of sodium - a little more than 3,000 milligrams on average.

Your body needs only 500 mg of sodium per day to function under normal circumstances. Endurance athletes need more and should consume fluids that contain sodium if they are exercising for two hours or more.

More than three-quarters of the sodium people consume comes from processed foods. The StatsCan researchers did not even look at the salt that people added to their food when they compiled their numbers.

Recommended adequate sodium intake

* 1,000 mg for children aged one to three.
* 1,200 mg for children aged four to eight.
* 1,500 mg for people aged nine to 50.
* 1,300 mg for adults aged 51 to 70.
* 1,200 mg for seniors over 70 years of age.

Consuming more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day increases your risk of health problems.


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