You Can Take This With a Grain of Salt?

By Richard Rohmer

For us Zoomers, that’s the name of a hot, new current motion picture featuring that luscious, tasty item who is Brad Pitt’s live in, Angelina Jolie.

SALT for us Zoomers is also the name of SODIUM, an ingredient that is found embedded in most foods and many liquid products we put into our hungry bodies every day.

It’s the salt/sodium material that’s finally being seriously recognized for what it is — if taken in excess into the complicated human body’s life system.

What it is? The stuff (excess) causes “tens of thousands of premature deaths and cardiovascular events, billions of dollars of health care costs, that could be avoided,” according to Dr. Kevin Willis director of partnerships at the Canadian Stroke Network. He is also a member of a federal task force, the Sodium Working Group, that released its report on Salt/Sodium a few days ago.

According to the report the average daily intake of sodium by Canadians is 3,400 milligrams (mg), whereas the maximum recommended daily intake is 2,300 mg, namely one teaspoon. Yes, take a teaspoon and level it with salt. Not much there, is there.

The report recommends changes to nutrition labels to highlight sodium content.

Which brings us to the current state of the labeling art particularly in foods we find in cans such as beans, soups, juices and the countless other commodities that line the shelves of our food stores big and small.

Let’s start with soup. The brand won’t be mentioned but it’s national/international.

The nutrition label states the sodium content about half way down the nutrition label. The soup is ‘potato’. The sodium content is 29 percent!

Here’s another quality soup. This time it is ‘creamy tomato’. The sodium/salt content is 33 percent — an even 1/3 of what you get in that can is salt. This can is 284 millilitres so you’re getting 86 ml of salt.

One teaspoon is 5 ml or 2300 mg (the maximum recommended daily intake) so 86 ml is far in excess.

Next is a favourite of mine, beans in tomato sauce. This also comes in at 33 percent. Wow.

Cream style corn is light. It’s only 14 percent.

Stewed tomatoes? 22 percent.

The big one is a can of mini ravioli. The can is 226 grams. The sodium content is 39 percent! Almost half salt! Another wow.

The moral of the story is simple. If you want to cut down on your salt intake (and your family’s) read the nutritional labels on most of the prepared food that you buy. Set a max salt number (2% to 8%?) and don’t buy anything over that number.

Better still, follow the advice that appeared last week in a Globe and Mail letter to the editor written by a woman who in 1947 at 23 years of age married a man of 32 whose brother died of a stroke at 55. She wasn’t going to let that happen to her man. She wrote “We rarely ate canned food, never soups or processed food and strictly avoided packaged pizzas and also smoked meat and hot dogs — his favourite foods. I even found that breakfast cereals are full of sodium and still find very few I will eat today.”

Her husband died last January at the age of 95!

Generally speaking, we Zoomers can take all this with a grain of salt — but only one.