Your Food and You: Heart Health Part 3 – Sodium

Sodium – Believe it or not we actually need to have sodium in our diet, but unfortunately most of us get to much on a daily basis. Sodium is important for muscle contractions, in controlling the amount of water in body, and regulating the PH of the body

Currently your diet is high in sodium. Sodium (salt) is required to keep an individual’s blood pressure within the normal range of 120/80 mmHg; however, consuming too much sodium can increase your risk for high blood pressure.


Not getting enough? Deficiency is extremely rare, however may occur with prolonged vomiting and diarrhea. Excessive loss is also seen with excessive sweating with hot weather to exercise. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramping, drowsiness, fainting, fatigue and potentially coma.


How to get it:

  1. Determine how many mg of sodium you eat by looking at the label.
    1. Simply scroll down and find the amount of milligrams (mg) of sodium is in the food. If the portion size you eat matches the one on the label you do not need to do any more calculating.
    2. If the portion size you eat does not match the one on the label you will need to adjust it accordingly. For example, if you had

½ cup of this food item listed to the right, you will need to divide the amount of sodium in half and record it in your sodium column.

  1. All unprocessed food including raw fruit, vegetables and meat will contain natural sodium but it is minimal and therefore you do not need to worry about keeping track of it.
  2. At the end of the day add up the total milligrams of sodium in your sodium column to see how much sodium you consumed for the day. If you were over 2300mg take a look at what you ate and determine how you can decrease your intake.

Who should consider a supplement?

  • Athletes who are heavy salt sweaters losing more than 1- 2% of their body weight during training sessions.
  • People who have experienced prolonged vomiting and diarrhea


How much do you need?

Age Recommended Dietary allowance (g)
Female Male
1-3 years 1.0 1.0
4-8 years 1.7 1.7
9-13 1.5 1.5
14-18 1.5 1.5
18+ 1.5 1.5
Upper Limit 2.3 2.3


How much is that in terms of food?

You should aim for 1500mg or less per day. The upper limit of sodium, that is the highest amount we should have to avoid health risks such as hypertension, is 2,300mg/day. To put this amount into perspective: 1 tsp of table salt contains 2,300mg (2.3g) of sodium; however, the main source of sodium in the Canadian diet comes from packaged/processed foods including restaurant foods. Be sure to read the labels of your packaged foods and ask for “no salt added” when you do eat out. Track your intake from packaged food to see how much you have.


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