We all know that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians love salt, also referred to as sodium. We have been using it for years to preserve and to add taste to food.
However, over the years our salt intake has had a negative impact on our wellness. Of all the salt we eat, what we add to our food accounts for only 10 per cent of our total salt consumption. Ninety per cent of our salt intake has been added to the processed food we eat by the manufacturer.
Keep in mind, salt is needed by our bodies. We need it to maintain the right balance of fluids for muscle contractions as well as for nerve impulse transmission.
Your kidneys help regulate the amount of sodium in your body and when salt levels are low, the kidneys conserve the mineral. When levels are high, the kidneys excrete salt in your urine.
If your kidneys can't get rid of the excess sodium, it begins to accumulate in your blood. This condition can cause problems because sodium attracts and holds water. More sodium increases blood volume, which in turn makes your heart and circulatory system work harder to move the blood through your body.
Estimated daily average Canadian consumption of sodium
3,400 mg a day
Latest recommended sodium levels
2,000 mg a day for most adults
Our sodium consumption comes from 4 main areas:
- The salt added to processed foods.
- The salt we add to our food.
- The salt contained in condiments.
- Naturally occurring salt in some food.
Keep in mind, the lower our salt intake the more beneficial the effect on blood pressure and kidneys. We can lower our salt intake by not adding salt to our foods and eating more natural fresh foods and less processed foods. By reading food labels we can opt for low sodium products.
Beware of impostors
When looking at food labels, be aware that these items contain salt: Monosodium glutamate, baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate and sodium nitrate or nitrate. Read the labels on condiments, as many products on the shelf are laden with salt.
How can you limit your sodium intake?
Besides pushing away the salt shaker, you can take steps such as:
- Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Choosing fresh or frozen items without added salts.
- Sticking to unsalted nuts and avoiding salty snacks.
- Selecting unsalted, fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.
- Seasoning your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Your taste and yearning for salt is learned, so it is reversible. When you decrease your salt intake gradually, your taste buds will adjust. Over time, you will enjoy the taste of the food and not miss the salt.
My final advice, monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis. If you really want to improve your cardiovascular health, lowering salt consumption is a great start but regular exercise is simply the best advice.
Until next time,
Bryan Harris - St. John's Morning Show's wellness columnist