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. He’s been covering men’s health for over 20 years. As well as researching and blogging for Don’t Change Much since 2015, Adam’s award-winning work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post newspapers.