The good news: Some salt in your diet is ok. Health Canada’s recommended daily intake for adults is between 1,500 mg and 2,300 mg.
The bad news: If you’re not watching your sodium intake, there’s a good chance you’re already there. Most of the sodium Canadians eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought and restaurant foods. Only a small amount comes from salt added during cooking or at the table. A salt-heavy diet isn’t just unhealthy – it’s potentially fatal. According to Health Canada, Canadians eat about 3400 mg of sodium a day, which is more than double the amount we need to stay healthy. How can overindulging hurt us? The list of salt-induced conditions is alarming and includes high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity to name a few.
There is however, more good news: Keeping your salt intake in check is really, really easy. Avoid these 10 foods – all of which have earned their spots in the Salty Foods Hall of Shame – and check out the nutritional information on packaging, and you’ll sidestep the nasty health risks associated with what’s aptly known as “white death”:
- Canned or bottled pasta sauces: These pour-and-serve sauces are undeniably convenient, but a whole can typically delivers double the recommended daily intake of sodium. Depending on your portion size – you know who we’re talking about – this can break the sodium bank.
- Instant noodles: Speaking of convenient, these just-add-water soup cups or packages can fill the void in a pinch. But one serving packs around 850 mgs of sodium. Yikes!
- Deli meats: Processed cold cuts are cured, often with salt, so you know where this is going. A 60-gram serving can contain as much as 600 mg of you-know-what.
- Bottled salad dressing: You’re safe with salads, right? Unfortunately, some store-bought salad dressings deliver as much as 400 mg of sodium per two-tablespoon serving.
- French fries: Switching to salad – with a low-sodium dressing, of course – is a no-brainer. Even a modest side order of fries contains at least 250 mg of sodium (and a boat load of fat).
- Fast-food burger or sandwich: Most hamburgers and sub sandwiches, with nothing on the side, contain more sodium than you should consume in an entire day. And if you opt to add the next item…ugh!
- Bacon: One slice of pork bacon contains around 200 mg of sodium. But one rasher leads to another, so if you consume four slices, do the math: That’s more than half the recommended daily intake.
- Sausage: Bacon or sausage with your eggs? How about neither: One link of smoked pork sausage contains 562 milligrams of sodium, and have you ever seen a breakfast plate with a single sausage? Three of them maxes out your daily sodium allotment.
- Chicken strips: Three pieces of this breaded, deep-fried, kids’ menu staple contains a whopping 2,100 mg of sodium. And that dipping sauce? Two tablespoons add another 200 grams to the salty scene.
- Snack foods: Even healthy-seeming snacks spell trouble when salt, or high-sodium powered flavouring, is added. Take pretzels: They are naturally low in fat, but 100 grams of them, a fairly modest serving, contains 1,266 mg of sodium. Salted potato chips are higher in fat and lower in sodium, but not low enough: 480 mg per 100 grams still gets them into the Hall of Shame.
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader’s Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN, MSN Canada, and DontChangeMuch.ca. Visit Adam’s website for more details on his award winning work.