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?

Recommended daily sodium intake by age
Age Recommended daily intake Maximum

Table 1 footnotes

Table 1 footnote 1

Salt should not be added to food for children under the age of 1 year.

Return to table 1 footnote 1 referrer

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.

Fast fact

On average, Canadians eat about 2760 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. That's almost 2 times the sodium we need.

Did you know?

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:

  1. Baked goods such as bread, buns, muffins, cookies and crackers
  2. Appetizer and entrées such as pizza, lasagna, frozen potatoes
  3. Processed meat products such as sausages, deli meat, burgers
  4. Cheese
  5. Soups
  6. Sauces and condiments

Did you know?

Reading the Nutrition Facts table can help you choose healthier foods lower in sodium. Use the % Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table to check if the food has a little or a lot of sodium. Choose products with no more than 15% DV per serving.

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.

See answer
True. Almost 80% of the sodium we eat is from:

  • Processed foods such as deli meat, pizza, sauces, and soup
  • Packaged and ready-to-eat foods such as bread and frozen meals
  • Fast food and restaurant meals
  • Kosher salt, fleur de sel, and sea salt have almost the same amount of sodium as table salt.

    See answer
    True . And these salts aren't any healthier than table salt.

    Your body needs some sodium to be healthy.

    See answer
    True . Sodium helps keep your body's fluids in balance. It also maintains your blood pressure, and keeps your muscles and nerves running smoothly.

    For children, regularly eating foods high in sodium could lead to high blood pressure later in life.

    See answer
    True . In fact, salt should never be added to food for children under the age of one year.
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