Worth its salt? Chain restaurant burger can contain a day's worth of sodium
TORONTO - A hamburger or stir-fry from a chain restaurant may contain the total recommended daily amount of sodium Canadians should consume, a new study shows.
The amount of sodium in some sandwiches and even salads from fast food or sit-down restaurants were also found to go off the chart.
The University of Toronto study of restaurant 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.
The daily recommended amount of sodium is 1,500 milligrams and no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. But study authors found that the average Canadian consumes 3,400 milligrams per day.
Many foods geared toward children were also found to be high in sodium.
About a quarter of Canadians eat something prepared at a sit-down restaurant, cafeteria or other food venue every day. And consuming high amounts of sodium can contribute to hypertension, which can lead to strokes and coronary heart disease.
"This study is important as Health Canada has not yet set targets for restaurant foods — a major gap in our Canadian sodium reduction efforts," Mary L'Abbe, chair of the university's department of nutritional sciences and senior author on the study, said in a release.
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, say the authors of the study, published Wednesday in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.
Bill C-460, which is being debated in Parliament, will ask chain restaurants to provide calorie numbers and high-sodium warnings on menus.
Sodium Awareness Week kicks off March 11.