Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Worth Its Salt? Chain Restaurant Burger Can Contain a Day's Worth of Sodium

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Worth Its Salt? Chain Restaurant Burger Can Contain a Day's Worth of Sodium

Article excerpt

Burger can contain a day's worth of sodium

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TORONTO - A hamburger or stir fry from a chain restaurant may contain the total daily recommended amount of sodium Canadians should consume, suggests a study published Wednesday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

When it came to stir fries, some sandwich wraps and even salads, researchers were surprised at the wide variation in the amount of sodium they contained, said Mary L'Abbe, chair of the University of Toronto's department of nutritional sciences and senior author on the study.

"Some of the top quarter of the foods were above the upper level for a day, but yet the lower end were ... half your recommendation, so there was this big variety."

The daily recommended amount of sodium is 1,500 milligrams and no more than 2,300 milligrams -- the equivalent of about a teaspoon of salt -- is suggested per day. Research shows the average Canadian consumes 3,400 milligrams per day.

"You would normally think salad is a very healthy choice and so absolutely a large number of those salads were quite low in sodium ... but at the same time there were also salads that had up to 2,200 milligrams (of sodium) per serving," L'Abbe said.

"So you could get the low end and have only 200 milligrams of sodium and you could get the high end, 2,000 milligrams of sodium."

The University of Toronto study of 4,044 foods from 85 chain restaurants found that, on average, a single menu item from a sit-down restaurant, such as a hamburger, sandwich or stir fry, contained almost 100 per cent of the daily recommended amount of sodium, or an average of 1,455 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Side dishes contained almost half that, an average of 736 milligrams of sodium.

Many foods geared toward children were also found to be high in sodium.

Health Canada has been educating Canadians on reducing sodium levels, but the focus has been on packaged foods and the agency has not issued guidelines for the restaurant sector, L'Abbe said.

It's been estimated that reducing Canadians' dietary sodium intake by 1,800 milligrams per day would result in an annual health-care savings of $2.33 billion, L'Abbe and co-author Mary Scourboutakos, who worked on the study as part of her doctoral research, said in the report.

About a quarter of Canadians eat something prepared at a sit-down restaurant, cafeteria or other food venue every day. Too much sodium causes high blood pressure, a leading cause of illness and premature death, the Ontario Medical Association said in a statement. …

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