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Sodium: what you need to know about salt

Explore why sodium or salt in your baby’s diet is a concern.

While eating too much sodium (commonly known as salt) in early life is of concern, there are many simple strategies to help to reduce the amount of sodium in the diets of infants.

Research from Deakin University’s Infant Program shows that, on average, infants aged nine months consume 486 milligrams of sodium per day. This is well above the body’s requirement of 170 milligrams per day at this age. High sodium intake is a problem that persists across the lifespan.

Sodium is an essential mineral, which means we need a small amount of sodium in our diet for our body to function properly. Too much sodium during infancy can change salt preference and blood pressure trajectories across life, and represents a modifiable cardiovascular risk factor.

Sodium is found in a wide range of foods. This includes naturally occurring sodium found in fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk, including breastmilk. Eating these foods can provide our body with all of the sodium that it requires. Sodium is also added during the manufacture of processed foods, such as bread, cheese, breakfast cereals, savoury biscuits and sausages.

Complementary foods introduced during infancy can add extra sodium to the infant’s diet. Those that are commonly consumed and contribute the most sodium include cheese, breakfast cereal and bread.

The amount of sodium found in these foods can vary considerably across different branded products. This means parents should check the food label to find options with less sodium.

Another strategy to reduce the amount of sodium infants are exposed to is to introduce fresh foods, such as vegetables, fruits, eggs and lean, unprocessed meats, which are all naturally low in sodium.

In this video, Dr Carley Grimes discusses which low-sodium foods can be introduced to infants during the complementary feeding period.

Your task

Watch the video and, when you’re done, search online to find out what your country’s guidelines recommend in terms of infant sodium intake.

In the comments, share your discoveries and what foods in your culture may be adding a large amount of sodium to your children’s diets. What can you do to reduce this intake?

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Infant Nutrition: from Breastfeeding to Baby's First Solids

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