Shaking Up The Salt Myth: Healthy Salt Recommendations

As you may realize by now, salt has had a very colorful history, both in the development of human civilization as well as public health politics in the past century. While salt was originally prized by many cultures for thousands of years, in the past century it has been demonized; some have gone as far as calling it the single most harmful substance in the food supply. Yet as we know, sodium plays a crucial role in optimal health, and too little salt intake can be dangerous in the long run.

In Shaking up the Salt Myth: The History of Salt, I described the history of salt production and use, and its place in the Paleolithic and Neolithic diets. In The Human Need for Salt, I explained the physiological roles of salt in the human body and the basic dietary requirements for salt. In The Dangers of Salt Restriction, I examined potential negative health consequences of restricting salt unnecessarily. In When Salt Reduction May Be Warranted, I described conditions in which salt restriction may be necessary, and other minerals that are essential in determining blood pressure.

In this final article, I will describe the types of salt I recommend, and how much salt is ideal for most people.

How much, and what kind of salt to include in the diet

According to research, there exists a range of sodium intake that likely confers the best health outcomes for most people. As I explained in part 3, findings from a 2011 study demonstrate the lowest risk of death for sodium excretion between 4000 and 5990 milligrams per day. (1) Sodium excretion greater than 7000 milligrams or less than 3000 milligrams per day was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and death. This lowest risk range equates to approximately two to three teaspoons of salt per day.

Figure 1: Mean sodium intake among the participants of the Japanese National Nutrition Survey: 1973–2000

The average American consumes about 3700 milligrams of sodium a day. This value has remained constant for the last fifty years, despite the rise in rates of high blood pressure and heart disease. (2) As a comparison, the Japanese, with one of the highest life expectancies in the world, consume an average of 4650 milligrams of sodium per day, and have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than most other developed countries. (34) Their average sodium intake has consistently hovered in the low risk range over the past 30 years, despite attempts by public health organizations to reduce Japanese salt consumption. (5) A caveat is that the Japanese also have a high risk of stroke, so their extremely high salt intake is not necessarily recommended as a model for our own intake. (6)

While salt recommendations vary between individuals based on age, gender, physical activity, and health conditions, I feel that the data supports an intake between 3000 and 7000 milligrams of sodium, or 1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons of salt, per day. People who are quite active or sweat a lot should consume salt on the higher end, and those who are less active may want to consume on the lower end. Of course, there may be some conditions where moderate salt restriction is warranted, but for the majority of healthy individuals, salting to taste will provide an appropriate level of sodium in the diet.  Natural sources of sodium include sea vegetables, fish, shellfish, and meat, plus certain plants such as beets, carrots, celery, spinach, and turnips.

What type of salt should you buy?

One question frequently brought up in the Paleo community is what type of salt is best. This is a difficult question to answer. There are a wide variety of salts available on the market, all claiming health benefits over the others. While the answer to this is unclear, there is some research demonstrating a difference in mineral content and flavor intensity of certain salts that would be better options than common table salt.

A fascinating 1980 study examined the different indigenous, pre-industrial methods of salt production, and their respective mineral contents. (7) Some salt production methods included drying marine algae or fish eggs, fermenting marine fish blood and entrails, and even using sea water soaked in peat that was dried and burned to create salty ash. This study compared the mineral contents of these traditional salts with industrial table salt, as well as a variety of sea salts and other “health salts” on the market. The indigenous salts were found to be higher in combined essential and nonessential trace elements than both the table and sea salts.

Most of us do not have access to these traditionally prepared salts. Fortunately, sea salt and other commercially available natural salts have been shown to contain a higher trace mineral content than refined table salt. (8) In this study, the mineral content of sea salts differed depending on the harvesting location, but all salts tested contained various amounts of trace minerals (with the exception of table salt), and had small amounts of calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, and iron. The various natural salts also had different time intensity profiles, due to the variety of minerals, so less of the salt is necessary to achieve the same level of flavor intensity compared to table salt.

Types of salt that are not recommended

One sea salt that is not recommended for dietary consumption is Dead Sea salt, due to its high bromide content. (9) The Dead Sea has the highest bromide concentration of any large body of water in the world, and bromide toxicity can occur after consumption. Some argue that sea salt is no longer healthy due to the level of pollution in our oceans today, though evidence for this is scant. (10) If this is a concern, there are salts produced from ancient geological oceans, like Real Salt from Utah beds or Himalayan pink salt, which would not have the same level of pollution as salt from much of the world’s oceans.

Regular table salt, conversely, is heavily processed, generally devoid of trace minerals, and commonly contains undesirable additives such as anti-caking agents like sodium silicoaluminate or sodium ferrocyanide. Therefore, generally avoiding table salt is a good idea, though care must be taken to ensure adequate iodine intake from other sources once iodized table salt has been removed from the diet.

Don’t stress the salt!

The amount of conflicting research that exists on salt is astounding. Hundreds of studies have been conducted on salt intake, and a consistent pattern has never been established for sodium’s role in a variety of negative health outcomes. At a minimum, it seems absurd that so much time, energy, and money is spent on trying to reduce the amount of salt that Americans eat, considering how weak the evidence is on this issue.

Ultimately, my perspective is that adding unrefined salt to a whole foods Paleo diet is perfectly healthy.By limiting grains and processed foods, the amount of sodium in your diet will already be drastically reduced as compared to the standard American diet. A bit of salt can make certain healthy foods, particularly bitter vegetables, far more palatable. Considering the evidence I’ve presented in this series, I believe that salt restriction for the general population is not only unnecessary, but potentially dangerous.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. Have I changed your perspective on salt? Do you disagree with my analysis of the data? Tell me your thoughts!

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Marianne says

    For what it’s worth/ and for the benefit if those who “crave”
    Salt – I found raw cacao nibs about a teaspoon a day unbelievably helpful! Weird, but I understand this is due to the trace minerals my body craves- not really the salt.
    Also, I didn’t see anyone discuss black salt (smells
    Like hard boiled eggs) I was gifted some from a buddhist monk; and an Indian friend, who happens to be a biological physicist suggested it for “assisting quick cell assimilation of nutrients” in my raw green juices.
    Any comments in response?
    I didn’t read the Yale article, yet; but will. My best to you all, in peace.

    • samantha says

      Hello Marianne, mmm, black salt, the rotten eggs would be its sulphur content I feel. Annoyingly still inorganic as far as a mineral nutrient goes.
      Black salt is still sodium chloride, not what the body needs in any way at all, given all the lovely green juices you drink, and as you will be absorbing essential organic sodium and your cells will happy to gobble it up, I don’t understand the reason for adding an inorganic compound to the mix.
      I wonder what your friend the biological physicist thinks about electrons from inorganic minerals being out of tune with electrons from organic minerals.
      I would so love a biological physicist to talk to!
      Peace to you too.

  2. Henry says

    The major problem Chris, as you have kindly asked for comments, is that you continually confuse the dialogue, due to talking about Sodium and salt in the same sentence. That is, as if they were interchangeable terms. They are not.
    Most of us should only be interested in consuming Sodium from plant sources, this is organic Sodium, which is the only Sodium the body uses to full metabolic advantage. We would not be interested in ingesting inorganic Sodium from Sodium Chloride (salt). The body does not use the inorganic Sodium in salt in the same way as it uses organic Sodium. By using the same two terms in the same sentence, which you often do, you only serve to further confuse people about required Sodium needs, and ingesting Sodium Chloride (salt) which has no place in a healthy body.

    • says

      Inorganic salts are transported to the plant kingdom by fulvic in the soil.
      The plants then are consumed and the salts when ingested are in ionic form.
      Animals will risk their lives for a viable inorganic salt lick. I refer you to Cathy Engels ” Wild life”
      For salt to be life sustaining it has to be bio-available in an ionic state. This is to be compared to other minerals like Ca. Nobody wants to eat chalk like carbonates. Crystallization of
      Calcium causes many diseases. Clean, salt with a full array of Earth minerals is the way Nature provides.

    • raquel says

      Chris mentions in the above article that unrefined salt makes vegetables more palatable. For the many who have little to no desire to eat vegetables, a little salt and butter can go a long way. Sometimes common sense can go a long way in these discussions as well.

  3. says

    For disclosure purposes: I represent Frezzor.
    As a practicing dentist, I recommend Flakey Sea Salt from New Zealand.
    I instruct my patients to brush and then swoosh for 5 minutes.
    The invisible intelligence of the ocean acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
    It is part of a 3 part naturopathic protocol for periodontal disease.

  4. Eva Wilhelm says

    If you drink your green juice, I mean only greens, maybe with a lemon, you’ll find this very salty. I don’t need a lot of salt and yet, occasionally, I feel like more, then I will have. I only buy the large crystals from the Himalayas, so have to pound them every time I want salt which also makes for having less. I live in very hot Australia and during summer, after a ride or working out, I want more salt in my food. I agree with many here, that salt is a personal thing- as long as the source is the most natural and best we can get.

  5. Greg says

    I have done a lot of research on salt. Owning to the fact that sea salt is so popular, and salt in general is said to be bad for you, I wanted the truth. To make a long story short, I came across several facts that are of prime importance. Refined white table salt is a complete poison in a very unnatural state. “Sea” salt is a little better, but still not worth consuming.
    I have come across three types of salt that are worth consuming. The best is Himalayan crystal salt, which is pink in color. The big caveat with Himalayan crystal salt is making sure it is the real deal. The only brand I know for sure is real is The original Himalayan Crystal Salt. On a scale of 1-10 I tested at 10 for this salt. The second best salt is Redmond’s Real Salt from Redmond Utah. It is an all natural salt mind from what used to be Lake Bonneville. It is a slightly off white color with colored specs throughout. It is my favorite based on taste. I tested at 9 for this salt on a scale of 1-10. The third best salt is called Celtic Salt, Gray Salt or Celtic Gray Salt. It is gray in color. I have not been tested on this salt.
    Regular refined white table salt tested at -2 on a scale of 1-10. This indicates that it is subtracting life force when I consume it. I was not tested on sea salt, but I imagine it is very low as well.
    If you want to read up on the topic of water and salt, which go hand in hand, I recommend reading this book: Water and Salt the Essence of Life.

    • Henry says

      Perhaps the translation from German might be considered the problem, one can only guess?
      Salt, an inorganic non nutrient, as it is sodium chloride, is not

      • Henry says

        My apologies the text leapt ahead!

        The idea that inorganic sodium chloride is of benefit to human metabolic requirement is at best, the salt institutes dream of making trillions from unsuspecting followers who think that organic sodium (essential) is the same as salt (NaCl) non essential.
        Tap water, full of inorganic minerals, so difficult for human assimilation, is also a metabolic catastrophe.

  6. Kristen says

    Absolutely agree. I put a pinch of icelandic flake sea salt in my water throughout the day and also use celtic sea salt with real-food cooking. I always feel so much better and can notice when I don’t have it, especially when working out. And things just taste so much better :)

    • Henry says

      You probably feel so much better having satisfied a craving, as sodium chloride is addictive.
      As for “things tasting so much better” with salt, food can only taste saltier when adding sodium chloride.
      “Better”, being subjective, is the result of satisfying an addiction to salted food.
      Real food is not bettered by adding sodium chloride, it simply alters the real flavours and taste of foods, meanwhile satisfying the addictive nature of NaCl

      • raquel says

        Wow! Look at the salt police analyzing tastebuds now. Now tastes are linked to addiction lol sheesh I don’t know how some people do it. Nitpicking salt.

        Henry perhaps you can explain to me why when I switched to himiliyan pink salt I started digesting food ALOT better and my energy improved.

        Oh and so-called “healthier” nitpicking snt always “better” for quality of life.

        • Henry says

          Sheesh?? What language are we talking?
          I don’t mind that you don’t understand the pharmacology of sodium chloride
          in which a toxin’s response in the body is described as the drug’s pharmacodynamics, and the body’s absorption and elimination of this toxin is known as the drug’s pharmacokinetics; because pharmacology texts clearly list the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of sodium chloride, confirming its use as a drug.

          As it is addictive, the excuse that vegetables are supposedly more “palatable” is of scant concern to anyone concerned with nutrition and the real taste of unadulterated foods.

          It would be obvious that ditching poisonous industrialised salt would have a beneficial reaction, that does not mean that it is the result of any other regime. There is no cause and effect proven. By simply stopping the use of one toxic salt you would automatically have a better metabolism for digestion and by stopping the same toxin you would soon feel better. Taking a different form of sodium chloride doesn’t prove cause and effect. You have simply switched to a less toxic form of salt, so you feel better and your digestion is less impaired.
          As for policing, it is simply pointing out the obvious, people believe something is better because they are feeding a lifetime’s addiction. You don’t like the truth.

          • Raquel says

            I don’t like the truth now? You are simply hilarious.

            I’m much more interested in practical solutions that work and make sense in the real world for everyday people. People eat salt with food. Many can do without it depending on what they are *eating*

            So… maybe you can do us some good and further enlighten us…

            Those with adrenal fatigue tend to run low in blood pressure. Salt has proven very useful for countless people including myself.

            Maybe it’s relieving the addiction that helps to normal blood pressure too? In those events should we all just eat plants?

            • Henry says

              Having enjoyed being hilarious for you, I need to be more precise than my previous monosyllabic missive, to make sure all is clear.
              Firstly I have no problems with other unprocessed nutrient rich foods than plants. However you feel….

              “The real world for everyday people. People eat salt with food. Many can do without it depending on what they are *eating” Well, nit pickingly That is Incorrect! EVERONE can do without NaCl regardless of what they eat, they simply chose not to do so.

              As we have previously established sodium chloride has never been essential.
              Organic sources of Sodium Yes! Organic sources of Chloride Yes! Inorganic NaCl Never. People are fooled into believing that NaCl suffices in alleviating metabolic challenges for the good.
              It is at very best, a poor but quick fix. At worst, long term kidney problems and a host of other diseases.
              Sodium alone from the richest providing plant sources, especially juiced, would not result in long term damage, but bathe the cells in the required electrolyte and nutrient that they deserve and need. Why take bound inorganic chloride along with sodium, where it is not required? It is alien to where sodium needs to work!
              Compromised people often opt for a quick fix instead. That is their choice, but not their metabolic need for optimum health.
              I hope your adrenals are one on day, and evermore, bathed in abundant glorious organic bioavailable sodium and you are freed from inferior inorganic substitutes.
              Hilariously in peace Henry.

  7. scott says

    Chris,

    In terms of salt, I wonder if you saw this Nature paper about 1 year old, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467095

    TH17 (a huge factor now in nearly all auto immune) is up regulated by salt intake. This is ground breaking stuff.

    You may want to read up somewhat.

    Interestingly, down regulators are vit A and D

    scott

  8. Jonathan says

    Although that seems like a sound range to remain within, what about when you add regular water (I consume about 4-7 L of low sodium reminaralized water p/day) consumption into the mix. At which point, aren’t you pushing your supply out of the body?

  9. Benson says

    Hi Chris, good work i must say, but my concern here is this; is it the raw uncooked salt added to food or both the cooked and uncooked salt. Help cos i crave for salt like an addict.

  10. stacy says

    Could I try taking 600 mg sea kelp (natural iodone) capsules along with my 100mcg Levothyroxine since I am working out and sweating a lot and still have low adrenal symptoms?

  11. profling says

    The difference in the two diets is in the amount of SUGAR consumed in the West, not the salt. It’s the fructose, white flour, and other sugars that are raising blood pressure.

  12. Lisa says

    Hi

    The study you got your facts from claiming anything below 3mg a day is bad for cardiovascular health was done using over 25 000 people with high diabetes disease or cardiovascular disease. You can not infer these results to the normal well population.

    Here is a more recent larger study of interest showing lower sodium diets to have no consequence.

    http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f1326

    For the public : please to your own research from at least 20 sources on a topic before you make a judgement on what information May or may not be correct.

    • Holly McAfee says

      Lisa, the link you shared says the exact opposite of what you quoted it to support. Here is the conclusion section:

      “High quality evidence in non-acutely ill adults shows that reduced sodium intake reduces blood pressure and has no adverse effect on blood lipids, catecholamine levels, or renal function, and moderate quality evidence in children shows that a reduction in sodium intake reduces blood pressure. Lower sodium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke and fatal coronary heart disease in adults. The totality of evidence suggests that most people will likely benefit from reducing sodium intake.”

    • Holly McAfee says

      Lisa, the article you link to says the exact opposite of the point you cited it to support.

      Here is the conclusion section of the study:
      “High quality evidence in non-acutely ill adults shows that reduced sodium intake reduces blood pressure and has no adverse effect on blood lipids, catecholamine levels, or renal function, and moderate quality evidence in children shows that a reduction in sodium intake reduces blood pressure. Lower sodium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke and fatal coronary heart disease in adults. The totality of evidence suggests that most people will likely benefit from reducing sodium intake.”

      • samantha says

        Hi Holly, I think you have just re-quoted the very point Lisa was referring to. Low sodium intake can be a beneficial lifestyle for those not metabolically challenged.

        • Holly says

          Samantha,

          No, Lisa’s comment and the article she cites to support it say opposite things.

          Referring to the need for studies on the normal well population, Lisa writes, “Here is a more recent, larger study of interest showing lower sodium diets to have no consequence.”

          However, the study says “The totality of evidence suggests that most people will likely benefit from reducing sodium intake.”

          So she cites the article to support the idea that low-sodium diets have “no consequence” for
          the general population , but the study says they are beneficial for that same group. It does not support her point.

  13. Adam says

    I think the research on salt is largely conflicting because cardiovascular disease doesn’t only depend on salt, but rather the balance between different electrolytes like sodium and potassium. When you consider that fruits and vegetables are the foods with the highest amounts of potassium, and then consider that Japan’s population consumes more produce than the West, it comes as no surprise that they seem to be able to handle consuming more salt. Likewise, when looking at large studies in North America, I think the person’s diet will largely affect how their system processes salt. Someone eating a lot of processed foods and little produce will have a very high sodium:potassium ratio and likely be more at risk.

    As for people talking about these salt cravings, I’m sceptical that this translates to the body needing salt. Salt is very much a learned taste, and our taste buds adapt based on our salt intake over a few days. One study fed infants salted food and another group of infants salt-free food, and sure enough the infants that had consumed the salt tended to want more of it, some of them even licking the salt shaker. The salt-free babies didn’t seem to care for it later in life. [1] If you reduce your salt intake over a period of time, your tastes change. You will crave it early on, but once you get over that hump, you stop craving it, and foods with added salt taste even saltier.

    There was a meta-analysis in 2011 of seven randomized controlled trials that found cardiovascular risk wasn’t associated with sodium intake. [2] However, when you remove the already ill heart patients from the analysis, you find a 20% decreased risk of heart attack and stroke with a 2 gram daily reduction in sodium intake. [3]

    Many other studies have found dangers with high sodium intake, independent of blood pressure. [4-8] Sodium has also been associated with kidney disease, [9-10] ulcers, gastric cancer, [11] osteoperosis,[12-13] and autoimmune inflammation. [14-17]

    Given all of the evidence showing negative effects of excess salt intake, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the health authorities to be promoting salt restriction. It’s easy to cherry pick a few studies that found no connection and say “who cares,” but the bulk of the evidence points to restriction being the best course of action.

    [1] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/1/123.abstract
    [2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21735439
    [3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21814179
    [4] Tuomilehto J, Jousilahti P, Rastenyte D, et al: Urinary sodium excretion and cardiovascular mortality in Finland: a prospective study. Lancet 2001, 357:848-851.
    [5] Perry IJ, Beevers DG: Salt intake and stroke: a possible direct effect. J Hum Hypertens 1992, 6:23-25.
    [6] Simon G: Experimental evidence for blood pressure-independent vascular effects of high sodium diet. Am J Hypertens 2003, 16:1074-1078.
    [7] Sanders PW: Vascular consequences of dietary salt intake. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2009, 297:F237-243.
    [8] de Wardener HE, MacGregor GA: Harmful effects of dietary salt in addition to hypertension. J Hum Hypertens 2002, 16:213-223.
    [9] de Wardener HE, MacGregor GA: Harmful effects of dietary salt in addition to hypertension. J Hum Hypertens 2002, 16:213-223.
    [10] Diets High In Sodium And Artificially Sweetened Soda Linked To Kidney Function Decline. In ScienceDaily; 2009.
    [11] Tsugane S, Sasazuki S: Diet and the risk of gastric cancer: review of epidemiological evidence. Gastric Cancer 2007, 10:75-83.
    [12] Frassetto LA, Morris RC, Jr., Sellmeyer DE, et al: Adverse effects of sodium chloride on bone in the aging human population resulting from habitual consumption of typical American diets. J Nutr 2008, 138:419S-422S.
    [13] Heaney RP: Role of dietary sodium in osteoporosis. J Am Coll Nutr 2006, 25:271S-276S.
    [14] Harmon K: Salt linked to autoimmune diseases. In Nature News; 2013.
    [15] Leslie M: Salty Food May Be a Culprit in Autoimmune Disease. In Science NOW; 2013.
    [16] Yandell K: Salt at Fault? In The Scientist; 2013.
    [17] Kleinewietfeld M, Manzel A, Titze J, et al: Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic T17 cells. Nature 2013.

    • Harry says

      Agree with Adam, salt intake might be personal. When I take too much salty food, inflammation is felt, body is puffy. Following the Paleo diet idea, most of the human history and for most people, salt is not readily accessible. Why we have involved to need more?

    • Kirill says

      I agree with this as well. I think the series’ recommendations make no sense. If problems with excess salt are mostly lack of potassium, then shouldn’t problems with eating under 3g of sodium *also* be derived from a lack of potassium, since it’s present in either situation?

      Given the pre-agricultural stats, shouldn’t the advice be to salt your food very lightly, avoid sauerkraut, cheese or bacon, and stock up on potassium gluconate powder to reach the 10:1 K/Na ratio?

      Has anyone tried eating 1 gram of sodium and 10g of potassium per day for a month? Has anyone tried observing how well someone with Yanomami Indian genetics in Brazil gets around on a modern diet, to see if they grow taller or live longer?

      It’s also hilarious to even wonder about why humans went to some much effort to create and adopt the salt trade. It’s like wondering why hunter gatherers go through so much effort to gobble up honey in monstrous quantities… It tastes good, and is hard to come by! Isn’t that enough? Humans developed inland, where sodium is hard to come by, and therefore we have a heightened taste for it (like other mammals). Not to mention the preservation of prepared food. By the way, if anyone noticed, potassium chloride salt substitute tastes pretty much the same as salt? Maybe it’s the chloride that we love so much. Not recommending the KCl, btw, I know it has negative effects.

      Another little note is that a lot of people these days look very soft. For the uninitiated, in fitness and bodybuilding circles there’s a term called “holding water”. This is when someone is generally lean, but has a film of water under their skin due to electrolyte imbalances after severe dieting. This makes them look soft. It’s common knowledge that a quick fix to this is to remove salt (cut sodium) and drink tons of water for a very short time, before aldosterone catches up. Could it be that part of this is the K/Na ratio imbalance that people face in a normal diet? Just some thoughts.
      ________________

      Anyway, I will try to be the guinea pig myself here. Will begin to salt super lightly, avoid salty foods and get my potassium up to 10g/d with K-gluconate powder over the course of the day, for a month or so. Then report back in Dec. Stay tuned :)

    • Henry says

      Totally agree. When I read this assertion by Chris Kresser I was astounded:

      ” it seems absurd that so much time, energy, and money is spent on trying to reduce the amount of salt that Americans eat”

      “Absurd” Organic Sodium is what the body needs, not salt!
      The majority of salt that Americans eat is a metabolic toxin laced chemicals and devoid of nutrients.

      Are you Chris actually suggesting that the majority of salt Americans eat is of a reasonable quality!

      The very last explanation that any reasoned argument would use on reducing salt intake is that it is absurd. Of course it isn’t, it is an exceptionally sensible approach to sodium chloride addiction. Salt ticks all the boxes for potential addiction.

      • Gregory says

        I agree we need sodium, but never salt (sodium chloride). I don’t eat salt at all and the sodium levels in my blood are perfect (142), as of last week. We get enough sodium in the organic vegetables we eat. In fact, when I did eat salt it made me tired and overheated my body at night. I tried Celtic sea salt and immediately got sores inside my mouth and on my tongue that lasted for days. So, I cut out salt entirely for three months now and have never felt healthier.
        Don’t eat salt.

    • Henry says

      I love pink flowers and now they are in florists!

      A pink flower addicts dream come true!

      Pink salt and grocery stores! Wow! A sodium chloride addicts dream come true!

      Whatever next?

    • Raquel says

      Yes me too! I have always ran a little low BP and have craved salt from time to time. I do notice I feel much better when I mix a pinch table salt with Himalayan pink salt. My digestion (especially of meats) also seemed to DRASTICALLY improve but I never knew why either.

      Any other recommendations on how to actually keep stable BP other than salt or where it’s rooted? Not everyone has “high” BP

  14. fallpinn says

    This ariticle doesn’t make sense… higher sodium lowers magnesium and potassium. I believe its not about just the salt intake… its the balance of all these electrolytes. You want proof that salt raises blood pressure? Come to my house and I’ll show you. Then I’ll show you how supplementing magnesium and potassium lowers it when the cause is over load of sodium. Its all about balance.

  15. says

    Another potential hazard of table salt is that it is comprised of half salt and half dextrose. Dextrose is an anti-caking agent that is typically derived from corn in the U.S.. The problem with this is two-fold: much of the corn in the U.S. is genetically modified and, because of the food labeling laws, corn is not listed as a potential allergen on the label of table salt. Plus, due to the excepients law, dextrose is listed on the label of table salt, but not on the labels of other products containing table salt (however, this part shouldn’t pose a problem if you’re eating a non-processed paleo diet).

    What this means is that people with corn sensitivities can easily and unknowingly expose themselves to corn. This was a problem for me when I was healing my arthritis. Discovering corn was an ingredient in table salt and eliminating it from my diet was one step in my recovery. I am now arthritis-free and prefer varieties of sea salt.

    Since writing this, have you learned anything new or definitive about the potential pollution of sea salt?

    • Paula says

      I was just recently diagnosed with arthritis, though they can’t quite figure out which type and what treatment should be. I’ve tried homeopathic remedies to no avail, and just recently began brewing my own kombucha after learning that helped someone extraordinarly. I would love to hear more about your healing process. Trying to learn as much as I can about natural ways to deal with this diagnosis, as I am becoming more symptomatic.

      • Delia diblasio says

        Hello, I have had awesome success with serrapeptase from vitamin shoppe 40,000 units enteric coated. There are no side effects . great for inflammation! Please try. Give it a chance. Will take weeks to a month, but will work! I will never stop taking it. Research it. If it works for you pass it on. I think it is a miracle. It calms inflammation .that is where the evil starts

  16. L Hendricks says

    I eat a lot of salt, and unfortunately it’s the bad processed table salt. Yet my blood pressure 99.9% of the time is 90s/60s. Am I an example of how high salt intake is not as detrimental to health as they say? Or does it mean something else entirely?

  17. Tara says

    Hi Chris,
    I’ve looked around for articles on your site and found that you’re obviously not a fan of soy. I’m trying to find an answer to whether or not I should be consuming or avoiding tamari and miso. I guess I’m really hoping that it’s an ok salt alternative, but I’m really not sure if it gets your stamp of approval. I consume it daily. Please help :)

  18. Mike L says

    I stumbled upon this article while searching on Google for more info on sodium concerns I have been having.

    I’m generally 90 – 95% Paleo but as of late, due to trying to add muscle …I noticed my intake of protein wasn’t coming even close to 1 to 1 or even .8 to 1 grams/protein to lean body mass just eating to satiety (Mark Sission Style).

    So I have been eating in the gray area side of things by using APPLEGATES 100% Grass-fed Beef Dogs & Cold Cuts to help me up my protein intake and that got me to notice how much sodium i’m also taking in by this type of shortcut.

    Example: If i’m throwing 3 slices of turkey in between some lettuce and then eating a beef dog…that’s like 740mg’s of sodium from one meal.

    I suppose this is better than just downing a Whey protein shake but from the article above I think I should be ok?? Considering I’m only doing this once a day generally an the rest of my food is made from scratch. (Beef Stews, Paleo Chili’s etc).

    Thoughts?

    • Chris Kresser says

      I think you’re fine, especially if you have no blood pressure issues and you aren’t sodium sensitive.

      • Mike L says

        Appreciate the answer Chris.

        Yeah, so far so good in regards to having no blood pressure issues or sodium sensitivity. I suppose I am due for a full blood lipid panel considering I haven’t had one for a couple of years now and also barring that I have gone Paleo since.

        It’s kind of funny, the more and more I learn about the actual science of how we are genetically meant to eat, every once in a while conventional thinking will pop its head out from around the corner and remind you of who used to be boss the past 29 years (my age). Like sodium? NOOOOOOOO! lol

        Whelp, just have to get better at planning out my week in advance and making the best of my meals. :-)

        Again, Thanks Chris…

        ~Mike

      • Andrea says

        Chris when do you think you will be taking new clients? I have Hashi’s and need some help with a true professional that can read labs.

        • Chris Kresser says

          Unfortunately, it may be a while. I have about 60 people on a wait list, and they’ll be given the first opportunity when I re-open my practice. Have you tried the Paleo Physician’s Network?

  19. says

    I’d like to stress the necessity of finding another source of iodine if you eliminate iodized table salt. As someone who suffered from iodine deficiency, I’m surprised that this very real danger only received one sentence in this post. Plus, there weren’t any recommendations on other sources of iodine, which seems like a large oversight. Ocean caught seafood & sea vegetables can be great sources, or you can supplement iodine through the use of Iodoral or Lugol’s Solution under the supervision of a professional.

  20. says

    Hi Chris. Have you heard of Dr. Hal Huggins’s work on salt? He says (oddly enough) that Morton’s pickling and canning salt is the only way to go. Wondering your thoughts on this?

  21. says

    Cool article Chris, I especially liked the recommendations section. With all of the different brands out today and all of the marketing its tough to know what is good and what isn’t!

  22. Eva says

    Nice article. I am glad you did all that research on better types of salt to eat. I suspect that most people when eating healthy can follow their taste buds to know how much salt is best for them. Your body will let you know if you need more with cravings. And if you add too much, your body will inform you it tastes too salty. You have salt taste buds for a reason so let them work for you. Salt is an ancient food and our body knows how to regulate it properly. Processed foods do have a lot of salt but I suspect the main prob with processed foods is not the salt but all the other crap in them. Or if you have kidney probs, you may have probs with salt but then the real question is what caused the kidney probs in the first place? (I bet it wasn’t salt..)
    -Eva

  23. Lynn says

    Hi Chris,
    I was hoping you’d mention “Wright Salt”, formulated by Dr. Jonathan Wright of the Tahoma Clinic. It is a “reduced-sodium salt formula based on the novel salt used in Finland – the nationwide use of this
    salt was associated with a 60% decrease in deaths from stroke and heart disease in a 1996 study.” Controlled studies in Taiwan and Australia have shown similar results. 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) has 324 mg
    sodium and 54 mcg iodine and is a “proprietary blend of Sodium chloride, Potassium chloride, Magnesium sulphate, Lysine hydrochloride, Silicon dioxide, Zinc chloride, Copper glycinate, Selenium and Potassium iodide.”
    Read more at: http://www.tahomaclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/WrightSalt-1.pdf

    Would like to know your thoughts on “Wright Salt” with it’s lower sodium / potassium ratio.

  24. says

    A month ago I was asked by my health practitioner if I perhaps was restricting my salt intake. I did, and had for a few years already, I never thought my cravings for salt actually meant I needed salt because all I had ever read was that it was best to limit your salt intake.
    At that time, I’ve had ME/CFS for 8 years, with ups and downs and I was suffering from adrenal fatigue and leaky gut, despite being on a strict Paleo diet for 3 years. Of course more measures were needed to heal my gut and reduce stress, and I’m not there yet, but adding some salt to my meals has made a huge difference in my energy levels. This once again proves that listening to your body is key.

  25. Ray says

    Chris I think your teaspoon amounts as equivalent to the milligram amount is not accurate as there are approx. 4000 milligrams per teaspoon or 4 grams

  26. Allison says

    I’m a big fan of celtic sea salt. Taking that has fixed orthostatic intolerance (dizziness on standing) that was part of CFS. Definitely feel more energetic with additional salt added to food. I have been able to avoid taking Florinef long term for this reason (I have low aldosterone which means I have trouble retaining salt – my adrenals are somewhat pooped). I also take Slow K though as I had a test done which showed low potassium in red blood cells. Getting electrolyte balance right is tricky – my muscle strength, energy and BP (both sitting and standing) are all better with added sea salt and the Slow K balancing that out nicely.

    Thanks for this series of articles – I’m going to be taking the previous article and references along to my doc in regards to my Mum who has very low sodium but high-ish BP. Very very helpful as always Chris!

    Really fascinating to see the Paleo community catching up on all things adrenal at the moment too….I first learnt about the important a few years ago in a thyroid/adrenal group – Stop the Thyroid Madness.

    • Andrea says

      Allison/Chris:

      I just read in the “Stop the Thyroid Madness” that taking more salt actually lowers aldosterone and sodium. What is your take on this.?

      (I also just joined one of their groups. I have Hashi’s and low adrenal function with bad hypothyroid symptoms. But my TSH has always been normal. I’m debating wether I should try Armour or HC to pick up my energy. At least short term while addressing the Hashi’s.,

  27. Kim says

    I recently had a ComprehensivePlus Hormone Profile which measured among other things mineral secretion in a 24 hour period. Mine results were 278 mmol for sodium (which I think is 5,000 milligrams) and 74 potassium with a sodium/potassium ration of 3.8. I was told that my sodium is too high. Also on the results for aldosterone, it was 3.2 ug, which I was told was indicative of high salt. I was told to cut my salt intake. I only consume sea salt and I don’t think I consume all that much. So is this in line with low risk and it’s just convential medical wisdom saying my results are too high?

  28. says

    I find my taste guides me well with salt intake, especially if the food is relatively simple. Adding some salt to steak for instance tastes great, but bacon usually becomes too salty after a few slices. I believe people on higher carbohydrate diets retain more salt/sodium, so that is something to consider.

  29. Marlin says

    Good article, on the topic of how much salt is enough?… Arthur Guyton taught us that salt intake in itself is not a problem, even in high doses i.e. Japanese population; natriuresis under healthy conditions eliminates the sodium the body does not need. To me there are two cases in which salt should be limited and monitored.

    1) Pathophysiological conditions that alter or impair sodium excretion: HTN and diabetes, which are the two most prominent chronic medical conditions, have serious impact on the kidneys and the glomerular filtration rate. This, in turn, leads to sodium retention and starts a cyclical cascade of further increasing blood pressure (water follows salt) –> renal injury –> increasing blood pressure etc. There are also several conditions that can alter sodium excretion by means of altered cellular and hormonal signaling i.e. Cushing’s, Addison’s, etc.

    2) Epidemiological studies have shown that age and race are important in salt consumption. The kidney’s ability to the filter the blood (GFR) is indirectly proportional to a person’s age; therefore the older the individual the less salt they would need to remain euvolemic. Race also plays a large role, especially in the US, where a disproportionately percentage of the African-American population suffers from HTN. Geographically African-Americans evolved in an arid area with little water, therefore water retention became a necessary means of survival, these genes were selected for, and as a result African-Americans have a more active renin-angiotensin system which conserves more sodium. Place this individual in an environment with free access to water and salt and obviously you now have a problem.

    In conclusion, renal function should be the primary indicator as to how much salt one can safely intake daily.

    • gregory barton says

      And how does one measure renal function for salt intake? The usual BUN and creatine?

      Would not simply measuring serum sodium and chlorine be more direct?

  30. says

    I have thought about salt intake a lot, as I have a health condition that causes me to retain fluid occasionally. Since I converted to Paleo and eliminated all processed foods from my diet well over a year ago, and am pretty active in endurance activities, I have added sea salt to the mix.
    Thank you for writing this series of articles.

  31. Monique DiCarlo says

    I agree with your analysis and thanks for the through series of articles on this subject! Can’t remember using table salt, have always used sea salt, the French fleur the sel and Himalayan pink salt (Trader Joe’s) this is also a great site for salts: http://www.saltworks.us/gourmet-sea-salt.asp Concern is: iodine which can cause a lot of trouble when you don’t get enough. I take Norwegian kelp tablets every day, but wonder if there are other ways to get sufficient iodine?

  32. says

    Chris, what are your thoughts on pure morton canning and pickling salt that is free of any additives? In my opinion, it seems like a viable option since it’s hard to find a salt that is free of contaminants and anti caking agents. For people eating a nutrient dense diet, it seems like additional trace minerals from sea salt are not completely necessary and could potentially contain other unwanted toxic properties.

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