Sodium myths busted

March is Nutrition Month. Registered dietitians take this opportunity to focus on eating well.

March is Nutrition Month. Registered dietitians take this opportunity to focus on eating well. This year, our goal is to give you the facts about common nutrition myths. There are many myths about how to lower the amount of sodium we consume. Sodium, the main component of salt, helps our bodies balance fluid and blood pressure, but many of us consume too much of it.

Myth 1: Only people with high blood pressure need to cut  sodium.

Cutting down on sodium reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Reducing sodium can also improve bone health. Most Canadians consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, but our bodies only need 1,500 mg. That is more than double what we need.

Myth 2: If you don’t use a salt shaker, you won’t eat too much salt.

For the average Canadian, 75 per cent of the sodium we eat comes from processed and packaged foods, not from the shaker. Soups, deli meats, bread, cheese, bottled drinks, condiments, and even desserts and sweets can contain hidden sodium. Always check the sodium on packaged foods before putting them in your grocery chart by reading the nutrition label. Look for foods that contain less than 15 per cent DV (daily value) sodium. You can also reduce sodium by eating less processed foods and cooking meals at home whenever possible. When you do eat out, ask your server about low sodium options.

Myth 3: Sea salt is lower in sodium than table salt.

All types of salt like sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt, have about the same amount of sodium. Try adding flavour to food with salt-free spices, herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, and onion instead of salt.

Myth 4: There’s no such thing as “too much sodium” for kids.

Kids only need 1,000-1,500 mg of sodium per day. Most Canadian children consume more than this and in the long term it can lead to health problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. Snack foods that are popular with kids, like crackers, chips, instant noodles, beef jerky, and packaged lunch kits often contain a lot of sodium. Instead, choose low sodium fun snacks like fruit and veggie sticks, salt-free peanut butter with low sodium crackers, unsweetened applesauce or yogurt cups, or unsalted trail mix. Try making sandwiches with leftover home-cooked meat instead of deli meat.

For more information visit http://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca to learn more about sodium and your family’s health.

Play the “Sodium Sense” game at http://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/sodium-sense.php to see how your meals measure up.

Visit http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-Month.aspx to bust other nutrition myths.

Christina Grieve is a dietetic intern with Interior Health.

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