To most people sodium is more commonly thought of as "salt." The salt we eat in our diet is actually a combination of two elements: sodium and chloride. Sodium is found naturally in small amounts in many foods including seafood, meats, dairy, and vegetables. The salt (sodium chloride) we add to food is mined from the earth or harvested from the sea. The sodium in canned and pouch tuna comes from different sources, both natural from saltwater as well as added as a preservative and for flavor.
You need a small amount of sodium for your body to work normally. In small amounts, sodium helps to balance the fluids in your body and allows your muscles and nerves to function the right way. Salt can help keep foods from spoiling. It also helps to boost the flavor of foods. Many "processed" foods have added salt, but not all do.
Even though sodium is essential in small amounts for your health and it must come from the foods you eat, too much sodium can increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg if you are 51 and older; a child; any age and African American; or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. On average, Americans eat over 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, much more than the Guidelines recommend.
Most 2-ounce servings of white albacore and light canned/pouch tuna contain about 180-250 mg sodium, while specialty offerings such as teriyaki or lemon-flavored tuna may have higher levels of sodium. This means the sodium in a typical serving of regular canned/pouch tuna would count for less than about 10 percent of the maximum daily recommendation. Further reduced sodium options are available, including canned/pouch tuna products with as little as 35 mg sodium per serving.
For more information about the functional role of sodium in canned/pouch tuna, click here.
Canned/pouch tuna is a lower sodium food and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids essential to a heart-healthy diet. For more foods that fit in to a lower sodium diet, check out the American Heart Association's grocery list of certified heart-healthy foods.