Sodium Food Sources in the Canadian Diet

Published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism,


Purpose of the Study

  • The purpose of this study was to provide information on the current sources of dietary sodium in the Canadian food supply, to identify where sodium reduction efforts should be focussed, and to establish a platform for measuring the effectiveness of strategies to reduce salt consumption. Such strategies are being developed by a Health Canada-led multi-stakeholder Working Group. Data from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2.2, Nutrition, was used to determine the leading food group contributors of sodium in the Canadian diet.

Sample Size

  • The total sample size was more than 35 000 respondents.
  • The results from this study were reported for 4 age and sex groups:
    1. Youths aged 1 to 8 years;
    2. Youths aged 9 to 18 years;
    3. Males aged 19 years and older; and
    4. Females aged 19 years and older.


  • Average daily intakes of sodium for these groups were 2388 mg, 3412 mg, 3587 mg, and 2684 mg, respectively.
  • In all cases these intakes exceeded the tolerable upper intake level (UL) established by the Institute of Medicine, as well as targets set by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States and the World Health Organization.
  • The contribution of sodium to the food supply by the top 40 food groups is presented for each of the age and sex groups.
  • The key food group contributors of sodium to the diets of Canadians are breads (13.88%), processed meats (8.90%), and pasta dishes (5.67%).
  • Although breads are found to be major contributors of sodium, this is mainly because of the high rate of consumption, rather than a high concentration of sodium.
  • Higher-sodium foods, such as processed meats, are eaten in smaller quantities but, because of their sodium concentration, contribute significant amounts of sodium to the diet of Canadians.
  • Some very high sodium foods, such as frozen dinners, are eaten by only a small proportion of the population. However, for those consuming these, the sodium from just one meal could contribute a significant proportion of the UL.
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