Salt: Take it Away, They won’t even Notice.

The following is a slightly refactored version of an article I wrote a while ago, and did nothing with. The information is, however, still current.

Canada has become a nation of salt fiends, and it’s not even our fault. According to Statistics Canada, the majority of Canadian’s consume over twice the recommended amount of sodium daily. However, less than 30% of Canadian salt intake comes from saltshakers and home cooking; the rest is served to the Canadian population unawares in fast and processed foods.

In an article for CanWest, titled Salt has invaded Canada’s food supply, Sharon Kirkey writes that processed food products like Corn Pops, Rice Krispies and Special K cereals contain as much as 85% more salt when purchased in Canada rather than elsewhere. This is a large contribution to something that organizations like The Canadian Stroke Network and the Heart and Stroke Foundation see as a serious problem.

“Adults should consume between 12 to 15 grams, or about one tablespoon, of salt. However,” says Marco Di Buono of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, “Canadians are currently consuming about double that.”

“What we know from data in Canada is that the majority of extra salt comes from processed foods, especially frozen pizzas and deli food,” Di Buono adds.

That’s why the campaign to reduce Canadian sodium intake is focused primarily on pressuring the food industry to change, rather than asking Canadians to make lifestyle changes themselves. “One of the good things about salt in terms of it’s potential to increase public health is it’s something that can be taken out of the food supply without having the consumer doing a lot of work. It’s difficult to get people to change their lifestyle. But with salt and trans-fats, industry can take it out. People won’t even notice that it’s gone. So it has the potential to have a major impact that doesn’t require the individuals to do anything. That’s why it’s such a good target,” says dr. Kevin Willis, director of the Canadian Stroke Network.

According to Di Buono, the reduction in salt is going to be a gradual one; Canadians won’t be expected to kick the salt habit all at once. Rather, the plan is to reduce slowly the amount of salt in food over the next 10 to 20 years. The change, in fact, should be mostly painless. “The most important thing consumers can do is arm themselves with the right information. What we’re recommending is that all Canadians refer to facts on packaging to identify foods that have an optimal sodium level,” Di Buono says.

This simple change will have a huge impact. Di Buono estimates that if Canadian salt intake is reduced to more reasonable levels, problems related to blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes will be reduced by as much as 30%, saving Canada millions of dollars in healthcare costs every year.

According to Willis, the amount of the Canadian population seriously effected by excess sodium is staggering: over half of all Canadians currently suffer from clinical hypertension or pre-hypertension.

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