Beware of hidden sodium

Although a minimal amount of sodium is needed to survive, the health implications of taking in too much salt is widely recognised by health professionals and the health conscience.

Although most people these days are keeping the salt shaker off the table to keep sodium intake in check, many still don’t realise that harmful amounts of sodium can be found in foods that don’t even taste salty.

The vast majority of the salt we eat (77 per cent) is unseen, lurking in processed and restaurant foods. Only 11 per cent of our daily sodium intake is derived from the salt added during cooking and while eating.

Current dietary guidelines tell us that healthy adults get no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day; the amount incidentally in one teaspoon of salt (sodium chloride). If you have high blood pressure, you should aim for less than this – 1,500 milligrams per day.

Lower-fat or fat-free foods are often found to be higher in sodium that their full-fat counterparts. Why is this? When fat is taken out of food, sodium (or sugar – depending of the type of food) is often increased to compensate for the flavor. For example, two tablespoons of Maple Grove Farms of Vermont fat free balsamic vinaigrette has 160 milligrams of sodium compared to 120 milligrams in the same amount of its’ full-fat counterpart.

Can you tell which of the following examples would be highest in sodium?

1-cup of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran cereal OR 1-cup Cheerios?

Answer: Raisin Bran (350mg); Cheerios (190mg)

½ cup low-fat cottage cheese OR 1 oz serving Lay’s potato chips?

Answer: Cottage cheese (360mg); Potato chips (180mg)

2-egg omelette with 1 oz Swiss cheese and 1 tsp butter OR 1 Pepperidge Farms Whole-Grain white Bagel?

Answer: Bagel (440mg); Omelette (295mg)

A Wendy’s Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken breast (no dressing) OR a large order of French fries?

Answer: Caesar salad (810mg); Large fries (480mg)

To reduce your sodium intake check the labels on your food products to identify which ones are lowest in sodium. To quickly determine if a food has a little or a lot of sodium look at the Daily Value percentage (DV%) found on the right side of the Nutrition Facts label. Foods supplying over 20 per cent of the daily value of sodium are considered high and foods supplying less than 5 per cent are low in sodium. It’s okay to include a high-sodium food in your diet once in a while as long as you balance it with foods that are naturally low in sodium such as fruits and vegetables.