Dietary salt, also known as sodium, is found naturally in many foods, although usually in small amounts. While some people add salt and salty sauces in cooking and at the table, most dietary sodium comes from food to which salt has already been added during processing or preparation.
While sodium has many important functions in the body, such as maintaining water balance between tissues, the transmission of nerve impulses and the absorption and transport of some nutrients, most people consume far more than needed. For an adult, the Adequate Intake (AI) for sodium is 1500 milligrams (½ to 1 tsp) each day. The typical Canadian diet, however, provides two to four times this amount! The average intake of sodium among adults in B.C. is approximately 2700 – 3600 milligrams (mg) per day.1
For kidney stone formers with elevated urine sodium, we recommend consuming less than 2000 mg or one teaspoon of salt per day.2 When reading nutrition labels, the claims “lightly salted” and “reduced sodium” do not guarantee low salt content. “Sodium-free” foods contain less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
SOURCES OF SODIUM:
Table salt is the most common source of sodium. A level teaspoon contains over 2000 mg of sodium. You can reduce sodium in your food by not salting food during cooking or at the table.
All foods that come from animals contain some sodium, and some plants, such as beets, carrots, celery and spinach, contain more sodium than other plants.
During preparation, salt is added to prepared and processed foods for flavour or preservation. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Many over the-counter medications contain sodium. Check the label of over-the-counter medications for sodium content.
If a food tastes salty, it is! Avoid salted snack foods such as nuts and pretzels and salty sauces such as soy sauce and fish sauce. Avoid pickled products or those packed in brine.