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Is your sodium intake too high?

sodium - stocksnap

Today, we are increasingly concerned about our sodium intake. I suggest you learn more about this topic to help you make smarter choices at the supermarket.

What is our current intake?

The body needs sodium to ensure proper functioning of the muscles and nerves as well as maintain stable blood pressure levels. Accordingly, the institute of medicine recommends a daily sodium intake of 1300 to 1500 mg depending on age.

A daily intake of more than 2300 mg increases risks of high blood pressure as well as heart and kidney diseases.

2300 mg sodium = 1 tsp. of salt = MAXIMUM recommended intake

On average, Canadians consume twice the recommended amount. Quebec is at the top of the list, with an average of 3350 mg/day.

Where do we get all this sodium?

The main source is commercial processed foods, such as:

  • Processed meat (deli meats, bacon, beef jerky, smoked meat)
  • Cheese
  • Bread
  • Grain
  • Sauces
  • Vegetable juice
  • Pickled foods
  • Canned foods
  • Condiments

Salt is added as a preservative and a flavour enhancer. Dishes served in restaurants are also very high in sodium.

The table below describes various sources of sodium in the food supply.

Source of sodium % consumption in the Canadian population
Naturally occurring 12
Added during cooking 6
Added at the table 5
Processed foods 77

As mentioned by the dieticians of Canada, “The sodium content of foods may vary between products.” It’s important that you learn how to make smarter choices by reading the labels. For example, you can read the daily value (DV) table: products with a DV of 5% and less are low in sodium, and products with a DV or 15% or more are considered high in sodium.

Frozen meals are a good example of foods with too much sodium: a single frozen dinner can contain up to half the recommended daily sodium intake. However, the sodium content of all Zero Diet frozen meals meets health criteria, with less than 650 mg of sodium per serving. Here’s a comparative table of various products on the market:

Product Weight/Serving


Sodium content


Recommended daily intake of

1300 – 1500 mg


Michelina’s1: Fettuccini Alfredo 284 770
Michelina’s1: Lasagna with Meat Sauce 255 650
Lean Cuisine 2: Grilled Chicken & Vegetables 285 570
Lean Cuisine 2: Grilled Chicken Carbonara 244 670
Stouffer’s3: Chicken Pot Pie 283 890
Nautilus Plus Zero Diet4: Fusilli in Turkey Bolognese Sauce 520 580
Nautilus Plus Zero Diet 4: Red Curry Coconut Pork 440 550

1. Michelina’s: http://www.michelinas.ca/fr/produits/originaux
2. Nestlé Lean cuisine: https://www.madewithnestle.ca/lean-cuisine
3. Nestlé Stouffer’s: https://www.madewithnestle.ca/stouffers
4. Nautilus Plus’ ZERO DIET MEALS: https://www.nautilusplus.com/zero-diet-frozen-products/#force

For a proper comparison of sodium contents, make sure you verify the serving size. As shown in the table above, although Zero Diet servings are twice the size of other brands, they contain less sodium. The same principle applies when comparing other products sold in stores (bread, crackers, cheese, etc.).

Click here for more information on Zero Diet frozen meals.

Do you read labels to make smarter choices?

Joelle Khairallah, P.Dt., M.Sc


Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium,sodium, chloride and sulfate. Washington (DC): National Academies Press, 2004
Health Canada. Health Canada’s Approach to Developing Sodium Targets for the Canadian Food
Supply. 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/sodium/reduction-targetscibles/dev-etab-eng.php
Garriguet D. Sodium consumption at all ages. Health Reports, 18(2):47-52, 2007
Dieticians of Canada. Food Sources of Sodium. 2014. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Minerals/Food-Sources-of-Sodium.aspx
Photo credit: Stocksnap

Joelle Khairallah, Dt.P., M.Sc.

B.Sc. in Nutrition and Dietetics, Université Notre-Dame-de-Louaizé / M.Sc. in Human Nutrition, McGill University / Nutritionist at Nautilus Plus since October 2013

Is your sodium intake too high?is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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