Sodium: the basics
Sodium is a nutrient found in table salt and many other foods. While some sodium is found naturally in food, most of it is added to our food to flavour and preserve it, or change its texture or structure.
You may have heard we need to cut down on how much sodium we're eating. It's true. Most Canadians, including children, eat too much sodium.
Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which may result in stroke and heart disease. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in Canada, after cancer.
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How much sodium is recommended?
|Age||Recommended daily intake||Maximum|
Table 1 footnotes
|1-3 yearsTable 1 footnote 1||1,000 mg||1,500 mg|
|4-8 years||1,200 mg||1,900 mg|
|9-13 years||1,500 mg||2,200 mg|
|14-50 years||1,500 mg||2,300 mg|
|51-70 years||1,300 mg||2,300 mg|
|71+ years||1,200 mg||2,300 mg|
Note: Your healthcare professional may ask you to eat less sodium if you have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes.
On average, Canadians eat about 2760 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. That's almost 2 times the sodium we need.
About 1 in 4 Canadians over the age of 20 lives with diagnosed high blood pressure. About 30% of these cases are related to eating too much sodium.
Males consume much more sodium than females. Of particular concern, over 90% of males between the ages of 14-30 are eating too much sodium.
Top six food sources of sodium
Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker at home. Here's a list of the top six food sources of sodium:
- Baked goods such as bread, buns, muffins, cookies and crackers
- Appetizer and entrées such as pizza, lasagna, frozen potatoes
- Processed meat products such as sausages, deli meat, burgers
- Sauces and condiments
Quiz: Test your sodium knowledge
True or false?
Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker.
Kosher salt, fleur de sel, and sea salt have almost the same amount of sodium as table salt.
Your body needs some sodium to be healthy.
For children, regularly eating foods high in sodium could lead to high blood pressure later in life.
- Sodium Intake of Canadians in 2017 [2018-07-23]
- Infographic: A Salty Situation [2018-07-23]
- Sodium Reduction in Processed Foods in Canada: An Evaluation of Progress toward voluntary targets from 2012 to 2016
- Report of the symposium on sodium reduction in foods [2016-10-13]
- Guidance for the Food Industry on Reducing Sodium in Processed Foods [2012-06-01]
- Summary of the January 2011 Consultation Feedback on Reducing Sodium in Processed Foods [2011-01] (Archived)
- Summary of the November 2010 Consultation on Use of Sales Weighted Averages and/or Maximums [2010-11] (Archived)
- Summary of the February 2010 Consultation Feedback on Reducing Sodium in Processed Foods [2010-02] (Archived)
- Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada [2010-07] (Archived)
- Initial Stakeholder Feedback on Draft Proposed Sodium Targets for Foods [2010-02] (Archived)
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