Sodium: the basics

Sodium is a nutrient found in table salt and many other foods. While some sodium is found naturally in food, most of it is added to our food to flavour and preserve it, or change its texture or structure.

You may have heard we need to cut down on how much sodium we're eating. It's true. Most Canadians, including children, eat too much sodium.

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which may result in stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Excess sodium intake is also linked to asthma, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.

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How much sodium is recommended?

Recommended daily sodium intake by age
Age Recommended daily intake Maximum

Table 1 footnotes

Table 1 footnote 1

Salt should not be added to food for children under the age of 1 year.

Return to table 1 footnote 1 referrer

1-3 yearsTable 1 footnote 1 1,000 mg 1,500 mg
4-8 years 1,200 mg 1,900 mg
9-13 years 1,500 mg 2,200 mg
14-50 years 1,500 mg 2,300 mg
51-70 years 1,300 mg 2,300 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 2,300 mg

Note: Your healthcare professional may ask you to eat less sodium if you have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes.

Fast fact

On average, Canadians eat about 3400 mg of sodium per day. That's more than 1000mg above the daily maximum.

Did you know?

About one in five Canadians over the age of 20 has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and almost 30% of these cases are related to eating too much sodium.

Learn how to reduce your sodium intake at home, at the grocery store, and when eating out.

Top five food sources of sodium

Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from processed and packaged foods, not the salt shaker. Here's a list of the top five food sources of sodium:

  1. Mixed dishes such as macaroni & cheese, lasagne, beef stew, etc.
  2. Baked goods such as bread , buns, muffins, and biscuits
  3. Processed meat such as deli meat, hotdogs, seasoned meat, etc.
  4. Soup
  5. Cheese

Did you know?

Reading the Nutrition Facts table can help you choose healthier foods lower in sodium. Use the % Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table to check if the food has a little or a lot of sodium. Choose products with no more than 15% DV per serving.

Quiz: Test your sodium knowledge

True or false?

Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed and packaged foods, not the salt shaker.

See answer

True. Almost 80% of the sodium we eat is from:

  • processed foods such as deli meat, pizza, sauces, and soup
  • packaged and ready-to-eat foods such as bread and frozen meals
  • fast food and restaurant meals

Kosher salt, fleur de sel, and sea salt have the same amount of sodium as table salt.

See answer

True. And these salts aren't any healthier than table salt.

Your body needs some sodium to be healthy.

See answer

True. Sodium helps keep your body's fluids in balance. It also maintains your blood pressure, and keeps your muscles and nerves running smoothly.

For children, regularly eating foods high in sodium could lead to high blood pressure later in life.

See answer

True. In fact, salt should never be added to food for children under the age of one year.

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