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Test Your Sodium IQ

Split screen image of TV host Anne Marie Mediwake and dietitian Sue Mah

Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death globally (1). Eating too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Here are 5 questions to test your sodium IQ!

Watch Sue’s national TV interview on YouTube or click on the image below.

 

 

 

 

1. True or False: We need sodium to stay healthy.

True!  We do need some sodium to maintain our blood pressure and fluid levels in our body. Sodium is also needed to keep our muscles and nerves running smoothly. The problem is that most of us are getting too much sodium, which can lead to health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease.

On average, we should stick to less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, but we’re eating about 1½ times that amount (2). In fact, 3 out of 5 Canadians eat too much sodium (2). A report by Health Canada found that 72% of kids between the ages of 4 to 13 are eating too much sodium. And over 95% of males aged 19-30 are eating too much sodium (2).

Eating too much sodium today can lead to high blood pressure later in life. According to a report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 20% of Canadians have high blood pressure or hypertension, and another 20% of Canadians have pre-hypertension (where their blood pressure is above normal but not quite diagnosed as high yet) (3).

2. True or False: Sodium is the same thing as salt.

False!  Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Sodium is a mineral that’s found naturally in foods and / or added to foods. Salt or table salt is a combination of sodium plus chloride. Salt is the main source of sodium. Other sources of sodium include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium benzoate (a preservative) and monosodium glutamate (a seasoning).

3. True or False? Sea salt is healthier for you than table salt.

False!  The main differences between sea salt and table salt are the taste, texture and how they’re made.

Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water and can taste differently depending on where it’s from. There are some trace minerals in sea salt such as calcium and iron, but the amounts are very low. The sea salt crystals can be large.

Table salt is made from fine crystals mined from ancient dried up salt lakes, and then ground to give it a finer texture. You may find iodine in table salt – it’s a nutrient that’s added to lower the chances of developing an iodine deficiency.

Kosher salt is the same as table salt, but has larger crystals and no iodine. And Pink Himalayan salt is actually mined in Pakistan. The pink color is from the iron in the salt.

By weight, all of these types of salt have about the same amount of sodium as table salt.

By volume however, (i.e. if you’re measuring it with a teaspoon), sea salt, Kosher salt and Pink Himalayan salt will have slightly less sodium because they have larger crystals.

Whichever type of salt you prefer, use less to cut down on your overall sodium intake. Boost the flavour of food with sodium-free ingredients like herbs, spices, garlic, lemon juice or citrus zest.

4. True or False? You can tell which foods are high in sodium because they taste salty.

False!  Some foods such as bread and cereal don’t really taste salty, but they do contain sodium. Sodium can also be hidden in salad dressings, soups, pasta sauces, different condiments and baked goods like cookies and muffins. Read food labels and look for foods that generally contain less than 15% of the Daily Value (%DV) for sodium. Or look for foods that are specifically labelled “low sodium”.

The image below shows a Nutrition Facts table for crackers. You can see that 4 of these crackers contain 6% of the Daily Value (DV) for sodium. A %DV that is 5% or less is considered “a little” and a %DV that is 15% or higher is considered “a lot”.

Nutrition Facts table for crackers, showing 6% DV for sodium

Image source: Sue Mah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. True or False? Most of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker.

False!  Only about 11% of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker when we add salt to our cooking or to our food at the table Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods. The rest is from sodium found naturally in foods.

In fact, the top 6 sources of sodium in are diet are:

  • Bakery products (e.g. bread, muffins) – salt is added to baking, and even though the food doesn’t taste very salty, but we tend to eat a lot of these foods, so the sodium adds up
  • Appetizers and entrées (e.g. pizza, frozen meals)
  • Processed meat
  • Cheese
  • Soups
  • Sauces and condiments

Fast food / restaurant meals also tend to be higher in sodium. Sodium is added to foods to act as a preservative and also to bring out the flavour of foods. To cut back on sodium, enjoy more wholesome fruits and veggies because they’re essentially sodium-free. If you’re making a recipe, try cutting down on the ingredients which contain sodium. If you’re eating out, ask for sauces, salad dressings and gravy on the side so that you can control the amount of sodium that you eat.

 

References:

1) World Heart Foundation (no date). World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29 September. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from https://www.world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/about-whd/

2) Health Canada (no date). A salty situation. Retrieved Sept 20, 2020 from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/publications/food-nutrition/infographic-salty-situation/26-18-2058-Sodium-Infographic-eng-08.pdf

3)  Heart and Stroke Foundation (2014 August). Position statement – Dietary sodium, heart disease and stroke. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/2017-position-statements/dietary-sodium-ps-eng.ashx?rev=29762d89e1e3446084fa988ac9b0c3d7&hash=6523A0B22CEB23AC5B87207DB5C00E8C

 

5 Foods to Keep Your Heart Healthy!

Heart healthy foods Feb 20 2017 - Sue L - 1

February is Heart Month! Did you know that 9 out of 10 adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease? The good news is that eating the right foods can keep your heart healthy.

Watch my interview on CTV Your Morning

Whole grains
Barley and oats specifically contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan. This type of fibre has been shown to lower blood cholesterol which is important since high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. The beneficial amount is 3 grams of beta-glucan fibre which is found in 1 cup of cooked barley or 1½ cups of cooked oatmeal.

Try this recipe – Vegetable, Bean & Barley Stuffed Peppers


Nuts

Research shows that eating about 1.5 to 3.5 servings of nuts 5 times or more per week can also lower the bad LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. All nuts have high proportions of healthy fats – these are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – and it’s these fats which help to reduce our cholesterol levels. Nuts are packed with nutrition like protein, vitamin E, selenium, folate and even calcium but the calories do add up, so keep in mind that a portion size is about ¼ cup. One easy way to eat more nuts is to eat them as a snack. Or you can easily add nuts to your oatmeal, in your baking recipes or in a stir-fry.


Soy protein

About 20-25 grams of soy protein helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. Plus soy protein is a great vegetarian protein. To get this amount of soy protein, try any one of these options:
– ¾ cup cooked tofu or
– ¾ cup cooked edamame beans or
– 1 cup fortified soy beverage with ¼ cup roasted soy nuts

Fish
Fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, artic char, mackerel and sardines are super sources of heart healthy omega-3 fats. These omega-3 fats can reduce inflammation and blood clotting. Aim to fish at least twice a week. A serving is 75 g of cooked fish or about the size and thickness of your palm.

Try this recipe – Salmon with Peanut Cucumber Relish

Veggies and Fruit
You can’t go wrong eating more fruit and veggies. Fruit and veggies are superstars for fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which protect us from not just heart disease but other health conditions too such as high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. As a general rule, try to have 1-2 servings of veggies or fruit at every meal and snack. Or just think of filling half your plate with veggies and fruit at every meal.

Health Canada approves new health claim for barley and cholesterol

There’s good new for barley! Health Canada has just approved the following heart health claim: “Barley fibre helps reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.” To qualify for this claim, the food must contain at least 1 gram of beta-glucan from barley grain products per reference amount and per serving of stated size. Research shows that 3 grams of barley beta-glucan per day is effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels. About 44% of Canadians have high blood cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Image source: Wikia.com

New heart health claim

About 44% of Canadians have high blood cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease. Health Canada has recently approved the following new heart health claim: “Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from vegetable oils helps lower/reduce cholesterol.” The claim may be applied to vegetable oils or a food made with vegetable oil provided that the food meets the specific criteria. For example, one of the criteria is that the vegetable oil must contain more than 80% polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

Healthier oils are pictured in the chart above by larger blue, orange and yellow coloured bands which show the relative percentages of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, and smaller red bands which show saturated fats.

What’s the consumer advice? Switch from saturated fats such as butter and lard to healthier oils such as canola, safflower and sunflower.

Keep your Eyes on Psyllium

Health Canada has recently permitted a new health claim linking the consumption of psyllium fibre to a reduction of blood cholesterol. A sample claim is: “Psyllium fibre helps lower cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. 1 cup (30 g) of Brand X cereal with psyllium supplies 50% of the daily amount of fibre shown to help lower cholesterol.” The “daily amount” is 7 g of psyllium fibre. To make this claim, the food must contain at least 1.75 g of psyllium soluble fibre per serving size as well as meet other specific nutrient criteria.

According to Health Canada, increased psyllium intake could be beneficial for adults who have normal or high blood cholesterol levels. Psyllium is a grain similar to wheat and oats, and is a concentrated source of soluble fibre.

Only a few breakfast cereals currently contain psyllium fibre, but you can bet we’ll be seeing more psyllium-containing products hit the grocery shelves soon. For more information, read http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/claims-reclam/assess-evalu/psyllium-cholesterol-eng.php

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