You may think, really…Dietitian Jane is talking sodium again. The fact is, sodium deserves our attention, from the busy mom grocery shopping to the food manufacturer developing products for the grocery store shelves to public health professionals and policy makers. It is important.
Our Relationship with Sodium
From table salt to our grandma’s delicious homemade dill pickles, sodium can be found in almost any food we eat. It is used to enhance food safety, preservation, flavour and to add structure and texture to foods.
Sodium, an essential nutrient for our bodies, means we need to consume it through our diet. Canadians (and probably you too) are getting too much – almost double what we need. Research suggests that the average intake is 3400 mg of sodium daily, while the recommended daily intake is between 1500 and 2300 mg.
Health Canada is working towards reducing the average sodium intake of Canadians to 2300 mg per day by 2016, so let’s get started! When reading the Nutrition Facts Table – check out the amount of sodium to keep on track.
Since 2003, Health Canada allows for the Health Claim to appear on food labels:
- A healthy diet low in sodium and high in potassium and reduced risk of high blood pressure.
These Nutrient Content Claim statements can appear on food labels:
- “low sodium”, “reduced in sodium” and “salt-free”
Health Concerns with too much Sodium
A diet high in sodium is linked to elevated blood pressure also called, hypertension. When we eat too much sodium, it can cause the body to retain more water than necessary, weakening the blood vessels because of the extra pressure. High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms and can go undetected for years.
How do I shake the extra sodium out of my meal?
It’s easier than you think! Sodium is heavily used in pre-packaged, convenience and fast foods so hit up the fresh foods aisles in the market and visit the spice section. Test out different flavourings such as lemon, herbs, vinegar and hot sauce (low sodium options!). Unfortunately, fast food restaurants may suggest that some of their menu items are ‘healthy’ neglecting the sodium content. For example, a small bowl of Chili from Tim Horton’s has more than 1300 mg of sodium! Make sure you ask for the nutrition information from the restaurants. Remember 1500 to 2300 mg is the recommended total for the day.
Here is a meatless, high in fibre, lower sodium Chili made with fresh sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and onions that is sure to please the taste buds!
Sweet Potato Chili
1 tbsp (15 ml) vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp (15 ml) chili powder
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cinnamon
1/4 cup (50 ml) all purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) sodium reduced vegetable stock
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 lbs/1 kg)
3 medium sized tomatoes diced
1 can (19 oz/540 ml) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 green pepper, diced
1 tbsp of chopped Italian parsley
3 cups (750 ml) cooked brown rice
Direction (makes 6 servings):
In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon for 5 minutes or until softened. Sprinkle with flour and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add stock and stir until smooth.
Add sweet potatoes and tomatoes; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until almost tender. Add beans and pepper and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and slightly thickened. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Optional – Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and serve over brown rice.
Nutrition Facts per serving (with rice)
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 0g
Fibre 12 g
Sodium 380 mg