Food & Fitness

Salt: what’s the big deal?

And the winner of the Household Traditions Dish Liquid is… Jill! She said:

Stumbled upon your blog just in time for spring cleaning! I’m so fed up with the brand name dish soap I’ve been using and I’ve wanted to make the switch to something far more natural so even if I don’t win the drawing, thanks for the tip!

Her blog is called Braver Homes and Gardens, and I think that that is the cutest name for a blog ever. Anyways, e-mail me your mailing address and I will make sure that you receive your dish liquid, Jill!

Things have gotten a little hectic for me lately, between working and being sick and preparing for the conference and all – so today I am sharing an article with you all that I originally wrote for The Food Label Movement… in honour of our TV segment. On Monday afternoon a video journalist from Shaw TV filmed me and Nicole talking about food labels and The Food Label Movement. It went really well! Anyways, here’s an article with some great information about salt, in honour of The FLM:


Salt is sodium, but sodium isn’t the same thing as salt: salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Sodium is an essential nutrient because it contributes to good muscle function and it regulates blood pressure. However, we need it in moderation. When we consume too much sodium, we put ourselves at greater risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease, among other health problems.

  • Most dietary guidelines recommend that adults consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day (equal to about 1 tsp of salt), but that is the tolerable upper intake that we can have.
  • What that means is that 2,300 mg is the absolute most anyone should have in a day before it could be hazardous to our health. In reality, the actual daily requirement is between 1,000 and 1,500 mg each day.
  • According to the 2004 Canadian Consume Health study, the average Canadian consumes over 3,000 mg of sodium every day!


Chances are that your sodium intake is higher than you think. Processed foods are full of added salt because it is a cheap ingredient, it preserves food so that it lasts for long periods of time, and it intensifies flavours.

I was recently astonished when I bought locally-made, whole wheat perogies and found that even though they contained natural ingredients, there was still 430 mg sodium in just four perogies! That is over a third of the amount of sodium that I should get in a day, but there was no mention of that on the package. I felt like going back to the store and circling the sodium content with a red felt tip pen.

It’s also important to remember that a food doesn’t have to taste salty to contain excessive amounts of sodium. We generally can’t taste the salt in bread, for example, but if you had a couple of slices of toast for breakfast in the morning and then a sandwich or two for lunch, you could easily consume a quarter of the amount of sodium that your body needs for the entire day. And that’s just in bread.


When you are reading labels, you are better off looking at the amount of sodium in terms of milligrams rather than the percentage amount. It will help give you a more accurate idea of how close you are to that 1,000 – 1,500 mg of sodium target for the day.

Keep in mind that we should be eating a ratio of 1:2 sodium to potassium. Potassium helps to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and other health concerns related to blood pressure and the heart. Unfortunately, the majority of consumers eat a ratio of about 4:1 sodium to potassium! It’s a major component for health problems.


Don’t assume that the food you eat is low in sodium just because it doesn’t taste salty or because it is made with all-natural ingredients. Food packages often bear the label “Reduced sodium”, but they don’t state how much sodium the original food had. Food manufacturers often point out when a product is “low in sodium” or “sodium-free”, but it should also be mandatory that they draw consumer’s attention to the sodium content when it is high.

Recommended reading

•    What to Eat by Marion Nestle (page 365 – 367);
•    Nutrition: Everyday Choices by M.B. Grosvenor and L.A. Smolin;
•    It’s Your Health – Sodium by Health Canada
•    Sodium: Questions and Answers by Health Canada
•    Dietary Reference Intakes by Health Canada

This article was originally published on September 26, 2010.


  1. Diana - Scale Junkie

    I try not to exceed 2400mg per day following recommendations of the DASH diet for high blood pressure. There are so many salt free seasoning blends you really don’t miss the salt and you learn to appreciate the flavor of foods. Now if I eat some of the foods I ate a while back, my tongue BURNS because its just so salty to me

    1. Sagan Morrow

      I think the biggest problem is the salt that is ALREADY in our foods, rather than necessarily the salt that we ADD to our foods.

      Is the DASH Diet really using 2,400 mg as their cut-off? I’m surprised! I thought that they’d be using the 1,500 mg mark… 2,400 mg is really high.

      It’s always nice when the mouth alerts us to salty tastes, though 🙂

  2. Andrea@WellnessNotes

    Yes, the sodium content in processed foods is often shocking! As you pointed out, I think many people have no idea how much sodium they are consuming because a lot of the food doesn’t taste salty. I try to eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day, but eating out can be a challenge, which I luckily don’t do very often. Sadly, many restaurant meals contain close to a whole day’s worth of sodium (or sometimes even more!) in one meal…

  3. Jody - Fit at 53

    I don’t add salt to anything & I am a huge label reader so I look for that too! 🙂 I don’t eat a lot of packaged foods & really almost zilch on processed…. People really need to pay attention to this AND especially when they eat out.. craziness if you check the stats there!

  4. Dr. J

    Of course I’ve been careful with salt for a while. I also restricted my horses salt intake from an early age and I feel that was good for him. (He turns 37 tomorrow 🙂

    It’s too bad that it takes so much work to eat healthy as the world offers little or no help with this.

  5. The Bird Cage

    I feel like I could go on a long half-angry monologue about salt. I won’t, though 😉 We need salt and I happen to LIKE salt. I probably consume a bit more than I need, but I drink so much water that it balances out. No problem. People always judge me for the amount of salt I consume, this bothers me slightly because I feel like it’s unfair. It comes from unknowledgeable grounds. Don’t they realize how much salt and sodium is in all those canned and packaged goods they consume? How can they profess a low-sodium lifestyle and then eat KD and soup out of a tin?! this is the part that bothers me: most people are quite ignorant about salt contents in their food, but feel entitled to impart judgement based on perception. GRRRRRR!!!! I wish there was lots more concience and respect aroudn this topic. Oooopss, I think I did monologue! Your posts just get me going!!!

    1. Sagan Morrow

      You are ALWAYS welcome to monologue here 🙂

      I completely agree with you that it’s unfair when people make judgments like that. And it can be SO frustrating when people make comments on our food choices, when their own choices leave much to be desired – it can be really hurtful.

      You’ve made a good point here, too, about the salt in processed foods. Most of the salt that people consume comes from processed foods rather than the salt they add to foods. The amount of salt that we add to our food makes a very small percentage of the salt that we consume. And you’re definitely right that we NEED salt to function! I figure if we’re eating mostly whole foods, then adding some salt to our food really isn’t going to make that big of a difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *