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Why eat less salt when you have diabetes?

By Karen Graham, RD, CDE

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. You won’t see salt listed on labels but you will see sodium. Health guidelines suggest that you shouldn’t eat more than about 1 teaspoon of salt a day. This is equal to about 2,300 mg of sodium.


Our body cells and tissues need salt so salt is essential to life. But like all things in life, there is always a balance and too much salt is not good for you especially when you have type 2 diabetes.


How sodium affects a person with diabetes:

· People with diabetes are often not able to get rid of extra sodium as easily as someone without diabetes. One reason is that with type 2 diabetes you often have extra insulin in your blood and this can reduce your kidneys’ ability to get rid of extra sodium.

· This extra sodium in your body can worsen high blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage your blood vessel walls and put you at risk of heart attack or stroke. This is serious stuff. High blood pressure can also damage your kidneys and eyes. All of these are complications of type 2 diabetes.


How to cut back on salt:

· Follow the guidelines in my books. You will notice my recipes and meals have less salt added to them. If you are a salt lover, it can take time to get used to lower-salt recipes and meals. Using spices and herbs, lemon and lime helps pick up flavour. I do include an occasional higher salt favorite food item such as ham for a special occasion meal or sauerkraut to add in a probiotic food. I always say it’s what you do 90% of the time that counts. Create a healthy moderation in all your food choices.

· 75% of the salt in our diet comes from restaurant foods and processed foods. Eat less of these. In Complete Diabetes Guide we have some excellent full-page charts (page 112-117) showing foods that are very low-sodium, low-sodium, medium-sodium, high-sodium and very high-sodium. These are great charts to learn the sodium content of different foods.


Take the Sodium Quiz!

Sue Mah is a Registered Dietitian frequently interviewed on national Canadian TV. Take Sue Mah’s Nutrition Solutions’ Sodium Quiz. Watch the 6-minute morning show interview with CTV’s Anne-Marie Mediwake or read through Sue’s sodium quiz on the same page. Good luck on the quiz!


Let me know, what questions do you have about sodium?


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