Kidney Diet Tips

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Why some high sodium foods don’t taste salty

Sometimes I look at the label on a food after eating it and discover the sodium content is much higher than expected. The lesson learned is to read the label before eating or better yet, before buying foods.

But why is it that some foods that are really high in sodium don’t taste salty? For example, many people get a surprising amount of sodium from the bread products. One slice (1 oz) of white bread averages 150 mg sodium. A couple slices of toast at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and a couple of dinner rolls easily adds up to 900 mg of sodium. A bakery size bagel and submarine sandwich roll provide 1170 mg sodium—before anything is added!

According to a Medscape article titled “Halt the Salt”, Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, MD notes that most of the sodium we consume, up to 75%, comes from processed foods and restaurant foods. From the remaining 11% we get only 6% from salt added at the table and 5% from salt added in cooking.

So why is there so much sodium in processed and restaurant foods? It’s because sodium-containing additives in addition to salt are added to enhance flavor. Additionally sodium is used as a preservative, a thickener, a stabilizer, an ingredient binder and to enhance texture and color. It can enhance sweetness in cookies and cakes and disguise metallic taste in soft drinks.

Salt is an acquired taste so the more salt or sodium you eat the more you will want to make your food taste good. When you reduce your sodium intake for several weeks you will discover some of the foods you usually eat taste too salty. That’s because your taste buds easily adapt to a lower sodium diet.

If you have high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease (CKD) reduce your sodium intake to help protect your kidneys. Your heart and brain will also benefit because reducing sodium lowers risk of stroke and heart attack.

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Sara Colman, RD, CDE

Sara Colman, RD, CDE

Sara is a renal dietitian with over 20 years experience working with people with diabetes and kidney disease. She is co-author of the popular kidney cookbook "Cooking for David: A Culinary Dialysis Cookbook". Sara is currently the Manager of Kidney Care Nutrition for DaVita. She analyzes recipes and creates content, resources and tools for the kidney community. In her spare time Sara loves to spend time with her young grandson, including fun times together in her kitchen.