About sodium

Learn to make healthier food choices by using the Nutrition Facts table on prepackaged foods. Sodium is found in the Nutrition Facts table.

Did you know?

Most Canadians don't realize that they are eating more sodium than they should - about 2760 mg of sodium per day. This is more than double the amount of sodium they need.

Canadian adults need 1500 mg of sodium per day and should not consume more than 2300 mg of sodium per day.

What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral that is found in food and in table salt. Most of the sodium found in the Canadian diet is added to foods during processing.

The body needs some sodium to stay healthy. Too much sodium may lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for developing:

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease

Too much sodium may also be a risk factor for stomach cancer.

Where can you find sodium?

Sodium is added to many foods. It adds flavour and is also used as a preservative.

Sodium can be found in:

  • Baked goods such as bread, cake, cookies, crackers, pastries
  • Canned foods such as beans, fish, sauces, soup
  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Condiments like olives and pickles
  • Frozen mixed dishes
  • Processed meats such as deli meats, hotdogs, sausages
  • Salty snacks such as chips, nuts, popcorn, pretzels
  • Sauces such as dips, gravy, ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce

Fast facts

It is estimated that 77% of the sodium eaten in the typical North American diet comes from processed food products. Only 5% comes from the salt we add to our food at the table.

Where else can you find sodium?

Sodium may also be part of food additives or preservatives.

Read the ingredient list and look for these words:

  • Disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium benzoate, sodium gluconate, sodium nitrate, sodium proprionate
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Brine
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Salt such as celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt, table salt
  • Soy sauce

How can you make a healthier choice?

  • For a healthy diet, reduce the amount of sodium you eat.
  • Use the % Daily Value (% DV) in the Nutrition Facts table.
  • Remember: 5% DV or less is a little and 15% DV or more is a lot for all nutrients.
  • Sodium is a nutrient you may want less of.

Did you know?

Everyone can benefit from eating foods with less sodium.

A healthy diet containing foods high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Learn more about health claims.

Potassium can be found in:

  • Dark leafy vegetables such as beet greens, spinach, Swiss chard
  • Dried fruits such as dates, figs, prunes
  • Fresh fruit such as banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, orange, papaya
  • Orange vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes
  • Other vegetables like potato and tomato

Helpful hints at the grocery store:

  • Always look at the Nutrition Facts table to choose and compare foods.
  • Choose products that are lower in sodium.
  • Buy more fruit, legumes, milk, meat, vegetables and whole grain foods.
  • Purchase fewer prepared and processed foods.
  • Read the ingredient list and watch out for hidden sources of sodium.
  • Add flavour to food with herbs, spices or lemon juice instead of salt.

How is the % DV for sodium calculated?

The Daily Value used in nutrition labelling is based on 2400 mg of sodium for a reference diet.

For example, if the Nutrition Facts table shows 500 mg of sodium, the product would have a % Daily Value for sodium of 21%.
(500 mg ÷ 2400 mg) × 100 = 21%.

Remember: 5% DV or less is a little and 15% DV or more is a lot for all nutrients.

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