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Why Everything You've Heard About Salt Is Wrong (Seriously) And How To Easily Manage Your Sodium Intake

Sep 29, 2018

Summary

"Don't put too much salt on those eggs honey"

Why mom?

"Grandpa's heart is damaged because he used salt every day. Eating salt will also destroy your kidneys".

O.K., I'll stop mommy...

Sorry for the theatrics. 

Fortunately, that conversation never happened.

My point is, however, that the conversation might have happened. Lots of people assume they should not add to their food. You might be too...

You must be thinking:

"Tough choice. I either choose to eat bland food that tastes like crap, or I'm eating mouth-watering salted food that destroys my health."

Not so quick...

Almost everyone is aware that there's a debate around salt. That debate focuses on whether you should add salt to your food and how much.

The salt debate has become more "violent" in the last decade.

So what's my take?

I'll tell you right now:

Just focusing on salt without having an overview of the bigger picture is a phenomenal mistake.

In this blog post I'll give you that 30,000-foot view.

So let's dig deep into the topic of salt. Salt, which contains a mineral called "sodium", has been demonized for decades.

About 40% of salt is made up of sodium. The more salt you're adding to your food, the higher your overall sodium intake will be.

Simple...

But let's make one thing clear:

I'm not saying that you can consume unlimited amounts of salt and never get any consequences either.

That would be stupid...

What I'm claiming instead is that it's a big mistake to just focus on your sodium intake without minding how much of the "potassium" and "chloride" minerals you're ingesting.

"Potassium?"

"Chloride?"

"How come I've never heard much about these minerals?"

That's my entire point.

So let's give you an overview:

In this blog post I'll make several controversial claims...

  • Proponents of salt reduction claim that pre-historical human beings never added any salt to their diets. I'll argue that there's no proof that we never added salt to our diet, and that, in fact, there was plenty of supplemental salt available back then.

    Another shocker?

    Our primate ancestors such as Chimpanzees and Gorillas even supplement their diets with salt - read the full blog post to find out how they do so. 

  • Contrary to the assumptions of proponents of salt reduction, traditional hunter-gatherer societies in the 20th century sometimes supplement(ed) with salt or consumed food that's really high in sodium content (such as animal blood).

    What's more:

    Traditional hunter-gatherer societies that do not add salt to their diet don't necessarily have great health either. 

    Cutting out salt will not always save your life...

  • The more plant foods you consume, the greater your need to supplement with salt.

    Herbivores in nature generally "supplement" their salt intakes. That supplementation occurs through licking salt off the surface of the earth, for example. 

  • Most studies actually demonstrate that a sodium intake between 3,000 and 6,000 milligrams per day is optimal. If you never added salt to your diet, you'd only end up with 1,500 per day. 

    Either more or less sodium than 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams a day can degrade your overall health. 

  • Now here's the kicker: 

    Many of the traditional side-effects of salt consumption, such as an increase in heart disease, kidney damage, or headaches, can be countered by increasing your potassium consumption.

    This argument is not emphasized enough in almost any sodium discussion, and that's why almost all discussions around salt are flat out wrong.

    The richest potassium foods are vegetables (especially leafy greens), tubers, fish, and fruits.

    We'll thus have to emphasize our omnivore nature to get enough potassium...

  • Another kicker:

    The most prevalent mineral in salt, called "chloride" may actually be responsible for the side-effects that are associated with salt consumption.

    That possibility is not emphasized in many discussions around salt either.

Want to see how that 30,000 foot view plays out?

Read the entire blog post.

Disclaimer: because salt is the main means of manipulating your sodium intake throughout the day, I'm using the words "salt" and "sodium" interchangeably. 

Of course, on a quantitative level, recommendations for your salt and sodium intake are not interchangeable.

By the way: do you want to receive a free shareable infographic that contains my 10 best practical salt tips? Subscribe below:

SALT AND HEALTH: WHY EVERYTHING YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT SODIUM IS WRONG (SERIOUSLY)--PLUS: HOW TO CORRECTLY MANAGE YOUR SODIUM INTAKE

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Author: Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MSc - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MSc).



Table Of Contents.

Salt Basics:

1. Introduction: Avoid Salt Like The Plague?
2. The Pre-Historical Human Salt Intake
3. History Of Salt Production And Consumption
4. Sodium's Role In Your Body

Salt Science:

5. Sodium Benefits And Side-Effects
6. Balancing Your Sodium Intake With Potassium

Optimizing Salt Intake:

7. Sodium (Lab) Tests - Know Your Salt Intake
8. My Salt Intake Critically Appraised

Assorted:

9. Salt: An Important Role For Chloride?
10. Your Best All-Round Salt Choice
11. Conclusion: Salt Is Complicated

1. INTRODUCTION: AVOID SALT LIKE THE PLAGUE?

As always, let's start with a definition:

Let's first analyze the words "salt" and "sodium". These words are often used interchangeably but their meaning is not equal.

Salt actually consist of several minerals and includes sodium. 

A mineral is a chemical compound, which is made up of several chemical elements. 

Table salt, for example, is made up of 40% "sodium" and 60% "chloride". Regular table salt is refined though, and some other minerals that are naturally occurring in salt have been removed. 

Natural salts such as "Celtic sea salt" or "Himalaya salt" contain up to 80 different minerals in addition to sodium and chloride, 

Sodium and chloride nevertheless remain the primary minerals found in all salt types.

Why?

Simple:

Sodium and chloride are still making up 98-99% of the Celtic sea salt or Himalaya salt. 

If any website or author claims that Celtic sea salt or Himalaya salt is a "rich source of trace minerals" they're completely ignorant.


Himalaya salt: still consisting of
almost 40% sodium and 60% chloride

 

Only 1-2% of minerals in natural salts are thus composed of non-sodium and non-chloride minerals.

Unless you're eating 10 tablespoons of salt a day - which is very ill-advised - Celtic sea salt or Himalaya salt are not rich sources of trace minerals--only a rich source of sodium and chloride.

Eat oysters if you want to ingest many trace minerals, not salt.

You might be thinking: "I agree it's self-evident that 10 tablespoons of salt are too much, so, how much salt should I get?"

I'll give you my exact view on salt quantities later.

Let's first explore some common recommendations out there:

Have a look at what sodium intakes popular health websites recommend:

A 2010 WebMD article titled "90% in U.S. [sic] Get Too much Sodium" states:[1]

"Basic U.S. dietary guidelines suggest that adults get less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, but the basic guidelines apply to fewer than a third of Americans. The rest -- 70% of the population -- are middle aged, elderly, or African-American. This huge majority should get less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day."

Then there's the American Heart Association (AHA) which also recommends:[2; 3]

"no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) [of sodium] a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults"

The AHA assumes that you can get by on less sodium though, as they later on state that:

"[t]he body needs only a small amount of sodium (less than 500 milligrams per day) to function properly."

The AHA recommends a low sodium intake for improving kidney health, decreasing high blood pressure, and lowering your chances of getting a stroke - claims I'll get back to later.

Let's take the recommendation of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. To achieve that much sodium intake, you'd need to add very little if any salt to your daily food.

WebMD and the AHA are not the only institutions that recommend an extremely low sodium intake. 

Take the World Health Organization (WHO)?

Same story.

The WHO:[4]

"recommends that adults consume less than 5 g (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day"

Less than 5 grams of salt translates, again, to less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day.

Let me be very clear:

These institutions are not talking about adding a teaspoon of salt to your food each day. Those 2,000 milligrams stem almost completely from your food intake.

Example?

Let's assume that your daily food contains 1,500 milligrams of sodium. In that case, you'd have room for an additional 500 milligrams of sodium each day - equaling just a quarter teaspoon of salt.

Most Americans consume about 3,500 milligrams of sodium each day and are therefore consuming lots of salt that's added to their food.

To achieve a sodium intake of 3,500 milligrams you'd need to add about a teaspoon of salt to your daily food intake in total.

So what's my overarching point?

Many important health institutions recommend that you consume less than a teaspoon of salt each day, which entails never adding (much) salt to your food.

Why?

These institutions such as the WHO, AHA, and others recommend foods such as milk and whole grains as a staple of your diet.

Many such foods already contain sodium, leaving you in no place to add salt because your sodium intake would get too high for their recommendations.

These institutions thus end up recommending to cut all added salt from your diet. 

You might think: "How do people end up with so much sodium anyway?"

Simple:

Adding more salt to your meals (except in extreme cases) remains the only way to add significant amounts of sodium to your diet.

Example?

The main reason you're ending up with 5,000 milligrams of sodium instead of 2,000 milligrams is that a lot of salt is added to your food or because you're supplementing with salt.

Many people don't even know how much salt (and thus sodium) is added to their food.

Processed food generally contains lots of salt is generally added to make the food tastier. Canned or frozen meat products are high in sodium, you guessed it, because lots of salt is added to them. Nuts or beans are high in sodium, again, because salt is added to them.

The main question of this blog post purports to answer is thus whether you should consume foods that have salt added to them. 

I will claim in this blog post that salt should be added to your food if you're eating an otherwise healthy diet. In fact, I'm recommending a sodium intake between 3,000 and 6,000 milligrams per day - I consider more or less than that amount harmful.

I'm willing to go as far as to say that the claims that you only need 500 milligrams of sodium per day and that most people should consume less than 1,500 milligrams are dangerous.

So let's have look at the fascinating topic of salt.

I'll build my argument in the following fashion: 

  • First, I'll explore salt consumption in human pre-history.

    While there's no evidence that humans did not add salt (and thus sodium) to their meals, there's no evidence to the contrary either.

    I also claim that our primate ancestors do add salt to their diet - read to find out how. It's thus not unthinkable that human beings did the same back then.

  • Tracing salt consumption through recorded history, secondly, you can observe that our ancestors generally had a much higher salt intake than people in the developed world today.

    Additionally, I make the controversial claim that some hunter-gatherer societies did add salt to their diets--contrary to what is commonly assumed by proponents of low-sodium diets.

  • The two following sections consider the role of sodium in your body and discuss benefits and possible side effects from either too much or too little sodium.

    Preventing heart disease and diabetes are examples of sodium benefits. Headaches and weaker bones are (possible) side-effects of taking in excessive salt.

  • I'll then argue that understanding the role of another mineral, called "potassium", may be necessary to fully understand the health effects of sodium in the first place.

    In fact, potassium can counter many of the side-effects of sodium.

    Any sodium guideline thus needs to consider your potassium intake. Is that an epiphany?

  • Then I'll tell you all about how to manage your salt intake, and consider different sodium lab tests. I'll also scrutinize my own salt (and sodium) intake.

  • Lastly, I'll argue that the second mineral that's included in salt, called "chloride" is also absolutely necessary to understand the role salt plays in your body. 

    In reality, chloride may cause some of the problems that have traditionally been attributed to sodium, such as high blood pressure.

    Surprised again? 

    I was too...

  • Lastly, I'll conclude that there's currently not enough evidence for low sodium diets. Instead, a diet with loads of potassium-rich foods and some added salt is the best solution.

Oh yes:

One important disclaimer...

You're reading a health blog, so I might as well be radically honest:

In general, if your goal is improving your health, I would not begin with fine-tuning your sodium intake yet.

Instead, I would look at other low-hanging fruits first, such as getting enough sunlight, making sure you're not exposed to artificial light after sunset, avoiding and conquering (chronic) stress, and making sure you're getting enough magnesium.

Also, ensure that you're eating an otherwise healthy diet. A few pieces of dietary advice that are golden: avoid junk food, eating late at night, and eat real (and thus unprocessed) food. Everyone already knows that advice, but those strategies bear repeating.

Only then start optimizing your sodium intake. 

Simple and yet so difficult...

Let's start with the first step of my argument: considering human salt consumption during our ancestral past.

2. THE PRE-HISTORICAL HUMAN SALT INTAKE

Let's take a step back:

One basis of the recommendation to drastically lower salt intake is an evolutionary argument. 

The proponents of a lowered salt intake claim that humans and their predecessors only consumed between 500 - 1,000 milligrams of sodium per day.[5; 278; 279] 

How valid is that argument?

Let's explore this claim:

The assumption for that argument is that human beings consumed half of their calories from meat, and the other half from plant foods. Both foods contain very little sodium on their own - as do (almost) all other foods.

True.

And yet, I do think that even during the millions of years in which our ancestors evolved, it might have already been possible that we supplemented with salt anyhow.

Of course, I'm not talking about taking a pill that's filled with salt - making that argument would be sheer lunacy.

How did our ancestors use salt then?

I see three main possibilities: 

  1. The use of mineral licks - specifically salt licks
  2. Other sources, such as salt from trees
  3. The ingestion of sea-based products

Let's consider these options one-by-one:

First, supplementing with salt through mineral deposits - often called "mineral licks" or "salt licks".

Some animals - especially herbivores - will take extraordinary actions to supplement with salt.[283]

Watch the video below to see some goats "hunt" for salt:

These salt licks could be found anywhere on this planet, from mineral deposits on the Savannah, to salt deposits near rivers, mineral deposits in forests, and saltwater springs.

Salt licks consist of many different minerals, such as sodium, calcium and iron.[280] 

The counterargument against human using such salt licks is thus that we're omnivores, and may not necessarily have used salt licks. 

True...

In general, though, carnivores have an easier job of getting more salt: one liter of blood contains 1,500 milligrams of sodium - at least if you're considering human blood. Blood from deer is slightly higher in sodium, and 1 liter of blood would supply you with more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

And of course, our ancestors would not be wasting that blood.

That's a lot more sodium than low-salt proponents would recommend...

There are other possible sodium sources for humans though:

Secondly, even our primate ancestors specifically supplement their food with salt.[6-13; 273]

If you calculate the daily sodium intake calculations of our primate ancestors based on food the outcome will be completely wrong.

Chimpanzees, for example,  "supplement" with extra sodium through rotting trees:

Modern humans are not the only ones going crazy for salt (in cinemas)...

More examples?

Yes...

Gorillas go to extremes to find deposits that are rich in salt (and thus sodium): they navigate dangerous areas such as volcanoes, thereby putting themselves at risk for hypothermia.

In other areas, gorillas consume eucalyptus bark which is up to 20 times as high in sodium content than the regular plants they consume.

And in yet other locations, gorillas consume 95% of their sodium from the stems from rotten wood. Spider monkeys do the same. 

Other primate sources of minerals are surprise, surprise: mineral licks.

By mostly eating plant foods our primate ancestors finding ingenious ways to "supplement" their diets with additional salt.

And if our much less smart ancestors already supplemented with salt, then it's not surprising that human beings may have done the same.

I cannot emphasize this point enough: primates actively search for sodium in their environment - even up to the point of self-endangerment. 

That pattern is true for other minerals as well:

If primates consume lots of foods that are high in calcium, for example, such as figs, they'll not seek out additional calcium-rich foods.

What's currently unclear, however, to what extent primates intentionally seek out specific foods. In other words, to what extent are primates conscious of their decisions to seek out one food rather than another - which is partially a philosophical question.

Then there's another evolutionary argument I'd like to make:

Thirdly, seafood, which was available during the time humans evolved, is richer qua sodium content than most land-based products.

100 grams of oyster flesh contains over 400 milligrams of sodium, for example. For mussels, that number ends up just below 400 milligrams.

Human beings and our hominin ancestors - the predecessors of human beings who had smaller brains in relation to lean body mass - have been eating shellfish for millions of years.[285]

Eating shellfish entails having access to water. Having access to water, you guessed it, again implies having access to salt.

Now, it's true that not all water is saltwater. Nevertheless, the East Africa rift, where our homo sapiens species evolved, is littered by salt lakes.[15]

While the geography of these locations is different today compared millions of years ago, it's safe to assume that saltwater lakes could also be found in the Africa Rift zone back then.[271]

And there's more:

Primates sometimes also use seawater or saltwater when it's available - although that saltwater use may have pathogen reduction as its main purpose:

So what's the effect of salt in primates? High dietary sodium content can also increase blood pressure in chimpanzees.[14; 15] 

The question then becomes whether primates and humans are killing themselves by consuming more salt.

You'll find soon out whether that's the case...

The gist of my argument in this section is that salt was certainly available for human beings in our past.

The question rather is whether we used salt back then. 

There's no way to definitively find out with our modern scientific methods whether humans really did use salt back then. But at least, I have established that the claim of the low salt ingestion proponents that ancestral human diets were certainly devoid of salt does not hold true.

So what's next?

I'll venture from pre-history to periods surrounding the first historical records.

Welcome to "civilization"...

Return To Table Of Contents

3. HISTORY OF SALT PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION.[17-20; 22] 

Now that it's clear that human beings may have supplemented with salt during the period we evolved in Africa, let's look at salt consumption during written history.

First shocker?

Here we go:

Don't be deceived by salt's modern-day status as a mundane product.

During most of human history, salt was actually terribly expensive. Settlements and even states were built based on salt and its trade. 

Salt was extremely essential for human beings after the agricultural revolution.

Why?

Less sodium is present in grains and vegetables compared to animal products, increasing your reliance on adding salt to your food.

Additionally, salt allowed for the preservation of food. For example, salted fish or meat lasts a lot longer than their non-salted counterparts. 

How?

By adding salt to fish, meat, or vegetables, the water content of these foods is lowered. Bacteria are also killed by adding salt to foods. These two reasons allow precious foods - which were definitely not plentiful for everyone back then - to be preserved much longer.

Most people are acquainted with modern methods of food preservation, such as vacuuming, canning foods, or freezing them. All these food preservation methods were not available 150 years ago. 

Salt was thus indispensable to survival back then - the stuff had many more functions than food preservation:

Salt could be used to clean wounds, as a supplement to livestock, and functioned as a commodity. Throughout history, salt has even been used to mummify human beings - such as practiced in ancient Egypt.

Of course, I'm not here to tell you about mummification.

Instead, the fact that salt can preserve a human body should attest to how essential salt was in preserving food - the basis of civilization. 

Written history actually records salt first being extracted 2,800 years ago in China. 

One of the first written texts of extant Chinese history records many different types of salt as well as their production processes. 

Before that time, a lake called "Lake Yuncheng" had already been exploited for thousands of years. The earliest exploitation of salt - that collects in that lake because the summer heat evaporates water - could go as far back as 6,000 B.C.

Around 600 B.C. in China, fish and soybeans were already fermented with salt. 

Later on, in 450 B.C., iron pans made it possible to boil sea water to extract salt. That production process remained the most used extraction method for salt for thousands of years. 

Salt taxes were also first instated in China before other places followed. 

Taxing salt would be like taxing the air your breathe: you'll have to pay to survive...

Even the bible contains references to the importance of salt.

The book advises:

"Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings."[20]

Salt was also used on the offerings of animals, as you:

"are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering"[20]

As only the best animals were to be offered, it can be extrapolated that salt had the status of a high-value product back then.

Other passages strike a relationship between salt and peace, and salt and intelligence.[20] Maybe I should have consumed more salt as a kid...

Nevertheless, even though salt was precious, it by no means ever assumed the value of precious commodities such as silver, gold, and jewelry. Some online sources falsely claim that gold was traded on a one-on-one basis to salt, which is totally improbable.

But of course, salt was essential: its use did spread all over Eurasia over time...

Even in iron Age Britain, salt was extracted from seawater or brine.

Brine is water that contains lots of "sodium-chloride". Sodium-chloride signifies the combination of salt's two main minerals: "sodium" and "chloride" - I've mentioned them earlier.

To extract salt, seawater was held in pots and water was evaporated to create salt. Brine was used in the same process and was collected from inland (salt water) springs.

As expected, salt even played an important role in the supply chain of the Roman army.

Internet myths assume that Roman soldiers were paid in salt, which is certainly not true. Salt was nevertheless part of the ration of Roman soldiers, who could not rely on unsalted meats because of the fear of food-born illnesses. 

No military supply chain means no projection of power...

Because of it's necessity, moreover, salt was a perfect means of taxation

For many centuries the French crown demanded its subjects to buy a weekly dosage of salt at a fixed (and highly inflated) price.

That tax was only abolished during the French Revolution.

Due to the essential role of salt in food preservation and preventing a sodium deficiency when eating a diet high in grains (and little meat), it can be estimated that sodium consumption was very high during much of recorded history.

Really?

Yes...

In fact, from the 1800s to the Second World War, there's direct proof that human salt consumption was much higher than today.[23]

Even army rations, which were never considered the healthiest diets, contained more than half an ounce of salt.

Half an ounce equals roughly two teaspoons, or one heaped eating spoon of salt.

You might be thinking: "well, maybe they used those two teaspoons over the course of a month, or perhaps a week".

No...

The amount of salt was used on a daily basis by American soldiers in the British-American war of 1812.

Salt was also of great import during the American Revolutionary war, but insufficient salt could be collected to fully supply the American troops.

As a result, meat could not be preserved and cattle had to be moved into the encampments to be slaughtered and then eaten immediately.

And these daily salt ration are not outliers...

In the Mexican war of 1838, 0.64 ounces of salt was given to soldiers every day. The Civil war period saw similar amounts allocated to troops.[24]

Six-tenths of an ounce is more than one tablespoon of salt that's added to our food every day.

McDonald's or Burger King suddenly does not sound as bad anymore (at least, for it's sodium intake)...

During the Second World War, American prisoners of war had access to a whopping 145 gram of salt per week, equaling 5 ounces.[24] 

Human salt consumption thus used to be categorically higher for two millennia. 

So why did a high salt intake eventually finally fall out of favor?

Again: the invention of the refrigerator after the Second World War.

From the post-war period to the 2000s, salt intake grossly remained the same in the US.[25] Sodium expelled through urine remained measured at around 3,500 milligrams. Keep in mind that the 3,500 milligrams does not include sodium lost by sweating.

From the 1950s to 2007, moreover, urine-excreted sodium was lowered by more than four grams in Japan.[26] 

Similar trends can be expected for other developed countries.

Salt also became very cheap for the very first time.

While salt is extremely abundant in the earth, that fact has only been known for two centuries.

The dramatic increase in the supply of salt can be attributed to a gradual perfection of industrial processes. Watch the video below to see how many tons of salt can be produced in a small area nowadays:

Sadly enough, most industrially extracted salt end up being denatured.

If you'd like to see a salt production process that results in the kind of salt that humans have consumed historically, watch the video below:

That French salt is called "Celtic sea salt" or "Sel de Guerande".

So, now you know how we ended up where we are today in terms of our human salt consumption. 

I'm not done yet though:

How about salt consumption in modern "hunter-gatherer" societies in the 20th century?

There are a few historical anomalies qua salt consumption.

Traditional African societies that still persist today, such as the Maasai and Hadza, do not add salt to their diets.

The same is true for an Amazonian tribe, the "Yanomamo Indians", who are traditionally known as a "no salt" culture. The problem emulating with that culture, however, is people in that culture only have an average life expectancy of 40 years.[122; 276]

Possible reason?

The "renin-angiotensin system" which regulates fluid and blood pressure in these Indians is extremely activated - hinting at the body's extreme drive to preserve as much sodium as possible.[123]

Interestingly enough, the same study investigating the Yanomamo Indians also considers several other indigenous populations from Xingu Brazil, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea.[276] 

These three other cultures have much higher sodium excretion values than the Yanomamo Indians, hinting that three other primitive cultures did in fact added sodium or salt to their diets. 

These three populations are literally called "isolated populations" - hinting that they did not come in contact with the developed world. And yet, these cultures nevertheless consumed salt.

Just looking at supplemental salt will not give you an adequate picture of someone's sodium intake. Why? The Maasai consume lots of salt through drinking cow's blood - thereby massively increasing their sodium intake.

And there's yet another contextual factor that's important:

Today, both the Maasai and Hadza are no longer in the pinnacle of health that many primitive cultures once enjoyed. Teeth problems, for example, are now common among the Hadza.[131; 132] 

Fortunately, additional case studies of hunter-gatherer's cultures salt intakes exist:

The Eskimos, American Indians, and Laps also don't seem to have supplemented their sodium intake from food.[270]  

Other historical sources, on the contrary, do claim that American Indians consumed (lots of) salt.[275] Salt was created from brine - also known as salt water. Brine was collected in pans, put on a fire, which left Indians with salt after the water had evaporated.

Australian aboriginals may also have added sodium through consuming specific plants (pig face leaves), and collected salt from desert deposits.[277] 

The use of desert salt additionally makes it more unlikely that humans would have never used salt deposits such as salt licks.

Why?

The more salt you excrete as a human being, the higher your "taste" for salt becomes.[281; 282] If you're low on salt, you'll get a drive to increase your salt intake.

So what's the outcome of this section's argument?

The medical literature's assumption that traditional hunter-gatherer tribes did not add salt to their diets cannot upheld.

On the contrary, some societies did add salt to their diets, while others did not.  

On a worldwide basis today, most people have an intake of 7,5 to 12 grams of salt per day, which translates to a maximum of 5,000 milligrams of sodium.[294] 

Let's summarize my main argument so far:

Salt consumption was possible during prehistory, then increased massively during most of civilization, and has actually been reduced dramatically in the 20th century. Hunter gatherer societies may have consumed salt too.

By the way: do you want to receive a free shareable infographic that contains my 10 best practical salt tips? Subscribe below:

Return To Table Of Contents

4. SODIUM'S ROLE IN YOUR BODY

For billions of years, salt was rarely found on the direct surface of the earth.

Of course, there are large deposits of salt in lakes, the ocean, and in salt deposits, but high quantities of salt are not everywhere. 

Many organisms therefore strive hold onto salt in their bodies.

Without consuming salt most organisms eventually die. Through billions of years of evolution, sodium has played a major role in almost every creature on this planet.[98; 99] 

As a human being, sodium is very important for the basic functioning of your body and specifically your cells as well.

Most sodium can actually be found outside your cells, while another mineral called "potassium" is mostly found inside that cell. 

The presence of salt outside the cells allows for an electric potential to arise that's integral to the cell's functioning.[295; 296]

The levels of salt in your blood are located at 140 mmol per liter. A same amount of sodium is located outside your cells.[254] That sodium level is almost 10 times as high as sodium found in many other places, such as inside (muscle) cells.

Human beings mainly lose sodium through your urine. 

Under some circumstances such as heavy exercise, however, you can also lose sodium through sweating - a phenomenon you're hopefully acquainted with.[100-102]

Sodium loss due to sweating is a complicated subject. The amount of sodium loss can vary with age, workout intensity, sex, the environment, the amount of muscle mass and fat you carry.

Different people also have different salt tastes. The higher the latitude of a given population, for example, the more likely they're able to taste sodium.[272]

You can have enormous sodium losses in a short period of time while sweating.

When working a shift during a hot summer day, for example, you can lose almost 6 grams of sodium - to be compensated by a whopping 15 grams of salt. When playing football, almost 7 grams of sodium can be lost in just an hour of play at the maximum intensity.


Dogs: no matter how hard they exercise,
they only "sweat" though their nose and paws.
Sodium conservation masters...

 

But let's get back to humans:

As a side note: you can train yourself to excrete less salt when sweating.

How?

You'll need to condition yourself to more heat over a period of days to achieve that effect.[259] 

Once you lose lots of salt through exercise you'll also start craving salt.[267] The body thus regulates its own salt cravings to avoid a sodium deficiency.

But you might be thinking right now: "how do I know whether I have the right sodium intake?"

Let's consider the sodium content of different foods.

It's not very easy to get a clear picture of the sodium content of foods, because sodium is added to so many products.

Let me explain:

  • Cheeses such as Parmesan contain 1,500+ milligrams (mg) of sodium per 100 grams of product. Cheese without added sodium contains 10 times as little sodium.
  • Bacon can contain as much as 1,400 mg per 100 grams of product. The same amount of regular pork meat? Only 62 mg of sodium.
  • 100 grams of salmon naturally contains about 50 milligrams of sodium, mackerel 90 milligrams, and herring about the same. Salted fish can contain multiple grams of sodium for the same weight, increasing your ingested sodium content almost 100-fold.
  • Grass-fed beef contains 40-50 mg of sodium per 100 grams of product. 100 grams of cured meat? Up to 2,000 mg of sodium.
  • Free range eggs contain between 60 and 80 mg of sodium. An egg and ham fast-food meal can contain up to 1,500 mg of sodium.
  • One pickled cucumber contains 300 - 500 mg of sodium, while a regular cucumber contains 2 mg. Spinach? 79 mg per 100g. Broccoli? 33 mg. Sweet potato? 55 mg. Canned vegetables, however, can contain a shocking over 1,000 mg of sodium per 100g.
  • 100 grams of nuts, such as macadamia: 5 mg; Cashew? 12 mg; Pistachios: 1 mg; Brazil nuts? 3 mg. Salted nuts? 2,500 mg. Again, light-years of difference between an unsalted and salted product.
  • Oils - such as coconut oil or olive oil - contain no sodium at all. You can ingest up to 1,500mg of sodium from 30 grams of a "healthy" olive oil dressing, however. While dressings may be healthy, most people would at least need to sign an informed consent before consuming that much sodium.

The pattern to be observed is that many foods are actually very low in their sodium content by nature.


Overdosing on sodium through
tubers and vegetable consumption:

a story that never happened.


No wonder processed foods are the main source of sodium intake in the US.

Your salt mill is thus not the biggest problem...

So how does sodium stay in your body or get excreted?

Your kidneys actually make sure that the sodium levels in your body stay around the right level. If you're healthy, higher sodium levels detected by your kidneys result in more sodium being excreted.

Two hormones, called "aldosterone" and "angiotensin II " - names which you may immediately forget - cause your body to hold on to sodium and water if sodium levels become too low.

The kidneys are not the only organ that regulates sodium control - your skin plays a vital role as well.[255] Some speculate that sodium is also kept in your bones.[257]  

How and where sodium is exactly stored in the human body is actually not completely known yet.

So what happens if you overdo salt?

Let's find out...

What about a sodium a deficiency or overdose?[268; 269; 286]

I'll first consider the symptoms of sodium deficiency (from bad to worse):

  • nausea
  • malaise
  • restlessness
  • headaches
  • lethargy
  • disorientation
  • low body temperature
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

Vomiting or diarrhea are often the causes of sodium deficiency - because you can quickly lose lots of sodium under these circumstances.

Other causes of a sodium deficiency are water loss, skin burns, sweating, and taking medication that leads to water loss (diuretics). Several diseases that I won't go into here can also cause low sodium levels.

If you're drinking lots of water without any added salt, you're eventually diluting the amount of salt found in your blood vessels, possibly decreasing your body's total sodium levels as well.

If you're holding onto lots of fluid in your body due to cardiovascular problems, you can end up with a low sodium content of the blood as well. 

With a mild deficiency in salt, such as 135 "mmol" per liter of blood, you'll (probably) won't notice any symptoms. "Mmol" is a measurement for the (relative) weight of a given substance.

Go lower than 135 mmol per liter and you're getting in trouble.

Lose too much sodium, and you'll eventually be dead...

Your body thus certainly needs some sodium.

What's next?

Let's secondly consider the symptoms of sodium overdose (from bad to worse):

  • thirst
  • weakness
  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • irritability
  • losing consciousness
  • coma
  • death

An overdose of sodium occurs when you get over 160 mmol per liter. Problems already start once you go over 145 mmol per liter though. 

Overall, disorders to the "sodium system" of your body become more common once you get older. Avoiding to have slightly higher sodium levels than normal thus becomes more difficult as you're aging. 

Return To Table Of Contents

5. SODIUM BENEFITS AND SIDE-EFFECTS

The section you've been waiting for...

Why read my articles anyway if you're not getting some benefit out of them, right?

So let's get to it.

Oh by the way, after treating the benefits and side-effects of sodium, I've included a "neutral" effects section. Neutral entails an effect can be good for some people while being bad for others.

Remember my earlier disclaimer: I use the terms "salt" and "sodium" interchangeably because I'm assuming that everyone in the modern world ingests more sodium by adding salt to their diets.

(I'm thereby assuming that you're not consuming lots of animal blood, which again, is very high in sodium content.)

I'll first consider the benefits of an optimal salt intake.

  • An optimal salt intake may make you less susceptible for heart disease.[29; 85-89]

    Remember grandpa had to reduce his salt intake due to blood pressure?

    Of course you do...

    The effect of salt on blood pressure is the most traditional reason why many health institutions advocate decreasing your salt intake. And yes, lowering your salt intake may decrease blood pressure - at least in some people. 

    I'll tell you all about blood pressure later. Blood pressure is not the only parameter that (co-)determines whether you get heart disease though:

    Your blood's "triglyceride" levels go up when your salt intake becomes too low. Triglycerides are a fatty acid in the blood that actually increases your chances of getting heart disease. 

    Cholesterol levels, moreover, also go up on a diet that's very low on salt. In fact, the "good" cholesterol, HDL, may even go down when being on a low salt diet.

    That HDL lowering effect has only been proven in the short-term studies though.

    (There's still conflicting evidence whether a low salt diet increases cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Lowering cholesterol and triglycerides levels through lowering salt consumption is probably not going to happen though.)

    There's a bigger problem of a (very) low salt consumption, however:

  • Getting too little salt may cause what is called "insulin resistance".[28-50; 160; 161]

    If you have insulin resistance, your cells won't properly respond to a hormone called "insulin". When you're healthy, insulin helps carbohydrates enter your cells--with insulin resistance, however, these carbohydrates stay in your blood.

    Having elevated carbohydrates (sugars) in your blood for long periods of time causes all types of diseases.

    (An alternative view of insulin resistance entails that sugars cannot enter the cells because cells are already satiated with sugars, promoting an excess of sugar in the bloodstream.[297; 298])

    The effects of adding salt to your meals on insulin resistance have actually been studied in great detail. 

    Overall, restricting your salt intake too low, under a few grams, increases your chances of lowering your insulin sensitivity, which means that carbohydrates are not taken up properly by your cells.

    One thing is for sure: an extremely low intake of sodium (not just salt) is damaging for how insulin functions in your body. The only way you can end up with such a low sodium intake is by exclusively eating plant food.

    A very high sodium intake may also be dangerous, on the contrary, because it may lead to an increase in the uptake of sugars (glucose) in fat cells.[51] 

    You'll have to choose the middle way yet again...

    Overall, if you've got diabetes - a disease in which insulin no longer functions correctly - you'll probably do best on an average sodium intake. Either a low or high intake increase mortality rates.

    Interestingly enough, there's also a relationship between salt intake and obesity.[48-50]

    On the one hand, a decrease in salt intake may increase the levels of a hormone called "leptin". The leptin hormone signals to your brain that there's sufficient energy at your body's disposal and that you should stop eating.

    With more salt intake, you'll have lower leptin levels and you'll thus more likely overeat.

    Additionally, increasing the salt intake also directly increases appetite, although that increase may also be explainable through increases in leptin.


    "please give me more salt human. I need to grow..."


    Overall, salt stimulates appetite and low leptin levels, which may clarify why people who are overweight generally have a higher sodium consumption.

    Of course, sodium is not the only reason people are overweight.

    The next benefit is awesome:

  • An optimal salt intake decreases the level of the "adrenaline" and "cortisol" stress hormones, and reduces your overall stress levels.[29; 45; 52-55; 60] 

    Good news right?

    To be more specific:

    Keeping your sodium levels either too low or too high can increase stress hormone levels. Some studies, however, demonstrate that these stress hormones do not increase with diets that are higher in sodium. 

    The goal is thus not to go too low in your sodium intake...

    Why?

    Adrenaline is a key hormone in the "fight or flight" response, that you get when you're having a stress reaction. In that case, your body acts as if it wants to fight the stressor head on or to flee from the stressor.

    The adrenaline hormone shuts away blood from your stomach and pumps carbohydrates (or fats) into your bloodstream to ready your body for an assertive response.

    The cortisol hormone, moreover, promotes an increase in energy production to face the stressor as well.

    Interestingly enough, the more chronically stressed you are the higher your cravings for salt (and sugar) will also be.[56-59] 

    And if you're stressed and increase your sodium intake, your overall heart rate goes down. That slower heart rate is a sign of reduced stress.

    A lower sodium intake during stress leads to a greater activation of the part of the nervous system that's associated with stress and activation - called the "sympathetic nervous system". 

    Higher sodium intakes actually lower the activity in that sympathetic nervous system, inhibiting the "fight, flight or freeze" response.

    Salt can thus help you strategically cope with stress.

    (By the way, want to know more about stress? Read my free guide on the topic.)

    Let's now kick stress into a higher gear:

  • Salt is beneficial for athletic performance.[138-142; 292]

    Remember I stated before that you could lose many grams of sodium per training session if you're sweating greatly?

    There's more to that exercise story...

    Increasing your sodium intake can specifically prevent cramping during exercise. Why? Once you go through your sodium stores, your body will end up with less and less sodium in the bloodstream. 

    If sodium levels get too low, you'll get cramps and twitches. Your body also releases a hormonal cascade to prevent even more sodium from being lost.

    Due to bigger sodium losses, exercise performance goes down. Remember, your cells need sodium to function properly.

    More sodium can thus equal higher athletic performance. With a higher sodium intake and less cramping, you'll be able to perform longer and at a higher level.

    Taking more sodium is not the only solution to prevent cramping though: you also need enough magnesium and potassium. Insufficient water intake is yet another cause of cramps.

    One caveat: there's lots of individual variation in how much salt you lose during exercise. You may or may not be a "salty sweater".

    I'll come back to the topic of sweating later...

  • Salt will give your body a sufficient intake of the "iodine" mineral.[143; 144]

    Lots of people do not consume much seafood. Seafood, such as shellfish or sea vegetables are a very rich source of iodine. 

    You need iodine for your body's metabolism and brain function. 

    If it were not for salt consumption, many people would actually be deficient in iodine, even in the modern world.

    Why?

    Iodine is added to the salt supply in most countries. That process of iodizing salt began in the early 20th century, and as a result, the most widespread deficiencies in iodine were prevented or reversed.

    You have to watch out if you're not consuming iodized salt nor seafood: that's an iodine deficiency right around the corner...

    Another sodium brain function effect?

    Yes...

    Let's get to it:

    An optimal salt intake helps your brain perform well.[145-148]

    Although there's some conflict of evidence, overall you need to avoid a very low sodium intake to keep your brain healthy at an advanced age. A very high sodium intake - as often observed - is equally damaging.

    That's the golden mean again...

    Besides sodium, potassium is also of great import for brain function.

    (I'll tell you more on potassium in the next section.)

That's it, the full list of sodium benefits...

Of course, salt consumption does not just have benefits.

It's not wise to approximate the extremely high levels of salt consumption your ancestors consumed before the early 20th century. Let's, therefore, look at the side effects of getting too much salt: 

In fact, the (possible) side-effects of overdoing salt may be just as important:

  • In some people, both low and high salt consumption causes higher blood pressure, more strokes, and increased heart-problem risks.[29; 60-71; 76; 77; 81-84; 104; 105; 120; 121; 159; 293]

    Let's first consider blood pressure:

    Of course, the vital question is: "how high should my sodium intake be?"

    Good call...

    Sadly enough, there's no straightforward answer to that question. Why? In order to answer to that question you'd have to know whether you're what is called "salt sensitive".

    The predicate "salt sensitive" is dangerous though, as there's a large variation between how salt sensitive different individuals are. I.e., you can be somewhat salt sensitive, have almost no salt sensitivity at all, or be an outlier who has extreme salt sensitivity.

    Estimates of salt sensitivity vary widely, from 30% to 60%.

    Sadly enough, there's no straightforward method by which you can determine whether you're really salt sensitive or not. The best current method is to test reducing your salt intake for a period of time - such as 3 weeks - and see if your blood pressure drops.

    What is known, however, is that if you're sensitive to salt, the increase in blood pressure will become greater when you age.

    Additionally, the following reasons make you more sensitive to increases of blood pressure by salt intake: if you're African American, already have high blood pressure (especially during pregnancy), got kidney disease, or if you're born with a low birth weight.

    (Another mineral, furthermore, called "potassium" might alter the effects of a high sodium intake. The real culprit, in the "salt and high blood pressure debate" might be low potassium levels - more on that later.)

    A second big problem for the hypothesis that salt causes high blood pressure is that many "overview studies" of existing research (systematic reviews) often include studies that are favorable to their position - claiming that either low or high sodium intakes are better.

    The jury is thus still out...

    Newer studies demonstrate that an optimal sodium intake ranges from 3-6 grams per day. That sodium content translates to a salt intake of 7,5-15 grams per day (if you did not ingest any sodium from food, an action which is impossible in the long run.)

    As a side-note, it does seem that more natural unrefined salt consumption is superior for preventing rises in blood pressure than refined salt.[103] Unfortunately, that effect has only been proven in rats.

    The evidence still needs to be corroborated in humans.  

    My verdict on the relationship between high blood pressure and salt intake is this:

    1) be especially wary of taking in too much salt if you're salt sensitive; 2) always make sure you're getting enough potassium; 3) and avoid a very high or very low salt intake.


    Then there's salt consumption in relation to the chance of having a stroke:[68; 72-75; 78-80]

    To be more specific: the more sodium you're consuming and the higher the sodium to potassium ratio of your food intake is, the greater that stroke risk becomes.

    Just lowering your sodium intake may not be the optimal course of action--instead, increasing your intake of potassium is better.

    In a stroke, your brain gets insufficient oxygen-rich blood which results in cell death in parts of your brain. Interestingly enough, increases in blood pressure are only partially responsible for increases in the risk of getting a stroke.

    The stroke-prevention research points roughly to the same conclusion as the blood-pressure-lowering literature: 1) get lots of potassium; 2) avoid excessive salt (especially if you're salt-sensitive); 3) avoid sodium deficiencies.

    Overall, when looking at all types of cardiovascular disease together, a 3-6 gram of sodium intake does not seem to increase risks of dying--despite increasing blood pressure in some people.

    Some studies actually demonstrate that lowering salt intake leads to increased mortality risk. 

    I am still worried about the current conflicts in evidence though:

    Some newer high-quality studies still claim that increasing salt intake can be damaging, an argument that cannot be completely ignored (yet). I'm thus wary of both (very) high and (very) low sodium intakes.

  • Salt over-consumption can make you drink less water and retain fluid.[90-93; 153]

    For a long time, most people thought that salt - all by itself - increased water retention in your body.

    In a sense, that's true. 

    The full story is more complicated though: salt only increases fluid retention and makes you drink more in the short term.

    With longer-term higher salt consumption, there's conflicting evidence. It's thus not fully correct to attribute higher fluid levels to salt consumption alone.

    Why worry about fluid retention anyway?

    Generalized fluid retention is associated with several diseases, such a condition where your heart cannot pump enough blood through the body or kidney problems. Holding  fluid can thus be dangerous in some instances and should not be ignored.

    Then there's a condition called "edema", in which your body retains more fluid than is healthy. 

    It's good to know that salt is not necessarily the culprit. 

    Next:

  • Overdoing salt may give you a headache.[162-166]

    Headaches may be reduced by decreasing sodium intake. That headache-preventing effect is only proven in people who have high blood pressure though.

    Overall, there is an association between having more frequent headaches and an increase in sodium consumption. Nevertheless, that association may be explained in many different ways, as unhealthy people generally tend to consume more sodium.

    My suggestion is to try lowering your sodium intake for a few weeks if you've got lots of headaches - it may work.

    Now a serious sodium side-effect:

  • Too much salt can reduce the availability of calcium.[113-118]

    Let's consider the calcium mineral.

    Want strong bones? Include some sprints and weight training into your exercise routine, manage your vitamin D and K2 intake, and make sure you're consuming enough calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

    Oh, before I forget: watch your salt intake.

    With higher salt intakes, more calcium is excreted in your urine - potentially leading to bone loss. Increasing the consumption of calcium-rich foods can partially compensate for that loss.

    Fortunately, an increase in dietary salt (or rather: supplementary salt) does not directly cause an increase in osteoporosis risk. Salt, therefore, does not seem to directly leech calcium from the bones but might nevertheless lower your dietary calcium uptake.

    At this point, I assume that high salt intakes compete with absorption for calcium.

  • Salt affects may cause "over-activation" of the nervous system in some people.[107-113]

    Remember that some people were salt-sensitive?

    If you're salt sensitive, a high salt intake can activate the part of the nervous system that's associated with the fight and flight response.

    Yes really.

    Specifically, your levels of "adrenaline" hormone are actually increased. One of the main consequences of adrenaline is an increase in blood pressure.

    This effect of adrenaline is very interesting because contrary to today, the relationship between adrenaline and blood pressure was highly emphasized in the medical literature of the 1980s.

    While I've stated before that salt can lower stress hormone levels, that effect may not be true in some people.

    Interesting...

 

So that's it. The full lists of sodium benefits and side-effects. 

Of course, the world is not black and white. T

here are some instances in which salt consumption is undetermined: 

Neutral cases wherein salt is neither beneficial nor harmful, or its effect of depends on the context:

  • Salt may affect kidney function.[91; 153-158]

    With a higher salt intake in the long-term, your body loses less water. Contrary to popular opinion, salt can thus conserve water in your body.

    Both a high and a low intake of sodium are also associated with more (chronic) kidney problems. The salt intake does seem to follow a "U-shaped curve again" - with extremes in salt intake as less healthy.

    Result?

    Reducing your salt intake to a bare minimum will not prevent kidney disease.

    There's a catch though:

    If you've already got kidney disease then using less salt may prove to be a solution. People with a kidney transplant also do better when avoiding a diet that's very high in salt as well.

    The kidneys may also be the root cause why some people respond with higher blood pressure to an increased salt intake while others do not.

    If you've got higher blood pressure, you're also more at risk for getting kidney disease. The reason is that the kidneys play a key role in regulating blood pressure. 

    Let's look at another neutral outcome on salt:

  • Salt may increase nutrient requirements by boosting metabolism.[91]

    People who consume salt eat more and experience more hunger. There are several explanations at the current moment for the mechanism by which salt increases hunger.

    I've given the explanation of leptin before. 

    There's another explanation though:

    Salt may increase energy production (and need) of the body. To generate more energy you need more fuel.

    An increase in energy production can both be good and bad.

    If your metabolism functions properly and you can easily convert food into energy, this effects can be very good. 

    If your metabolism does not work well, and salt attempts to increase energy production instead, stress hormone creation may be created instead.

    Most often, you simply need more nutrients once you increase your salt consumption. Only if you combine salt with nutrients will you feel better and perform better.


    "No added salt to my fruits? But I need to boost metabolism to lose fat for the summertime..."

  • An excessive salt intake may increase your chances for several types of cancers.[167-172; 219-224]

    With an increased salt intake, there is an increase in stomach cancer risk - although that evidence is very weak at this point. Esophageal cancer - which is located in the throat - is a second type of cancer that may increase from salt consumption.

    There are also instances in which salt helps curing cancer, such as preventing breast cancer from spreading to multiple locations in rat studies.

    The jury is thus still out.

    Another explanation for the relationship between an increased salt intake and cancer is that several types of foods that are preserved salted are cancer-forming by themselves. Preservatives themselves can thus promote cancer, leading to a false bias against salt.

    Only time will tell...

    Now, yet another gut-related topic:

  • Salt may affect the efficiency of digestion.[129; 130; 152]

    Both the digestion of protein and fats may be inhibited with a high salt intake. Unfortunately, that effect has mostly been studied in rats.

    Nevertheless, that evidence from the rat studies is countered by much anecdotal evidence that sodium actually increases stomach acid production. You need sufficient stomach acid to properly digest food.

    Studies show that stomach acid production is not increased nor decreased at higher salt intakes.

    Overall, I consider the effects of salt both impairing or increasing digestion unproven. The theories are interesting nonetheless.

    Now one salt-effect you're probably familiar with:

  • Salt makes makes you eat more food.[94-96; 153]

    Do you remember that you were eating potato chips that were loaded with salt when watching television, and you couldn't stop eating?

    I remember doing so as a kid.

    Salt is one of the reasons why so many processed foods are so addictive. By adding salt you're going to eat more, plain and simple.

    Specifically, salted foods stimulate both the "opiate" and "dopamine systems in the brain. 

    Increasing dopamine levels make you more motivated, assertive, and boosts your well-being. Stimulating the opioid system in your causes a reduction in pain, and makes you feel well. 

    Additionally, salt stimulates a hormone called "ghrelin", which directly causes hunger. 

    Is increasing hunger all bad? Of course not. For that reason appetite-stimulation is subsumed under the "neutral" category.

    In some instances, using salt strategically can be a great way to make sure you ingest more food. In other instances, such as obesity, I would be more careful with adding tons of salt to your food.

    That's it.

 

You now know of salt's "neutral" effects as well.

Lastly, I'd also like to debunk a myth: It's often said that too much salt may create more "inflammation" in your body.[133-137] 

Excessive inflammation underlies many modern diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Even though there's an association with increased salt intake and inflammation, it's very probable that people who are overweight tend to consume more salt while obesity itself is causative of increases in inflammation.

Obesity thus explains inflammation instead of your salt intake. Other reasons exist for the association between salt intake and inflammation as well, such as the fact that people who tend to consume more salt also eat more poorly.

Still worried about salt's side effects?

No need to. Let's lower your chances of having problems with sodium consumption in the first place...

Return To Table Of Contents

6. BALANCING YOUR SODIUM INTAKE WITH POTASSIUM

Potassium is a very important mineral in your food.[173; 174] 

Yes...

For regular people who don't have access to daily hospital IVs, it's only possible to ingest potassium through food.

Why?

The amount of potassium you can get from supplements is negligible.

The reason for that impossibility is that supplements may only contain a limited amount of potassium due to possible side-effects that occur when you ingest great quantities at once.

Potassium supplements can be problematic for your gut function and may cause kidney problems. These supplements have even caused fatal overdoses in the past.

The sale of high-dosed potassium consumer supplements is therefore currently forbidden.

Food is your only option...

But why worry about potassium in the first place? Aren't you reading a blog post about sodium?

Technically, yes...

But you can simply see potassium as a "counterbalance" against sodium. There's no understanding of what sodium does in your body without understanding potassium as well.

Let's consider the potassium intake of traditional societies:

If you only include the sodium and potassium intake from food, your ancestors ingested about 7-10 times as much potassium as sodium.

I'll place that number into context later. Stay with me...

So, what are potassium rich foods?

Let me give you the top 50 potassium-rich foods, measured per 100 grams (3.4 ounces) of product:[175; 176]

Animal products are listed in bold...

  1. Different spices, such as turmeric and
    chili powder, or paprika: 1,000 - 2,500 milligrams (mg).
  2. Unsweetened cacao: 2509 mg.
  3. Molasses: 1464 mg.
  4. Spirulina powder: 1363 mg.
  5. Mashed potatoes: 1098 mg.
  6. Tomato paste: 1014 mg.
  7. Pistachio nuts: 1007 mg.
  8. Sockeye salmon: 960 mg.
  9. Raisins: 825 mg.
  10. Yam: 816 mg.
  11. Almonds: 733 mg.
  12. Rye: 717 mg.
  13. Peanuts: 690 mg.
  14. Cashew: 660 mg.
  15. Brazil nuts: 659 mg.
  16. Clams: 629 mg.
  17. Chestnuts: 592 mg.
  18. Mackerel: 558 mg.
  19. Spinach: 558 mg.
  20. Baked potatoes: 554 mg.
  21. Herring: 542 mg.
  22. Cod: 528 mg.
  23. Halibut: 528 mg.
  24. Tuna: 527 mg.
  25. Pork: 519 mg.
  26. Avocado: 507 mg.
  27. Bacon: 506 mg.
  28. Chanterelle mushrooms: 506 mg.
  29. Chinook salmon: 505 mg.
  30. Beef round: 480 mg.
  31. Chestnuts: 477 mg.
  32. Plantain: 477 mg.
  33. Sweet potato: 475 mg.
  34. Ground beef: 470 mg.
  35. Squash: 459 mg.
  36. Walnuts: 459 mg.
  37. Seabass: 456 mg.
  38. Pollock: 456 mg.
  39. White navy beans: 455 mg.
  40. Pumpkin seed: 449 mg.
  41. Crimini mushrooms: 448 mg.
  42. Cowpeas: 441 mg.
  43. Pinto beans: 436 mg.
  44. Game meat: 436 mg.
  45. Cinnamon: 431 mg.
  46. Durum wheat: 431 mg.
  47. Artichokes: 431 mg.
  48. Oats: 429 mg.
  49. Wild rice: 427 mg.
  50. Pecan nuts: 424 mg.

That's it.

The list with the highest potassium content foods...



Disclaimer: dried products have been excluded from the list because they score much higher in potassium content than their non-dried counterparts. I've also included the highest potassium listing per food type, so the average potassium content per food is lower than the numbers listed above.)



As you can see, tubers, spices, vegetables such as tomatoes or spinach, and fish have the highest potassium content.

Another shocker?

The potassium story gets more interesting because our ancestors used to consume massive amounts of potassium compared to modern humans.[177-181]

How much?

Over 10 grams.

To put that 10 grams in context, the average modern human has enormous problems getting to the 4-gram threshold. In fact, 98% of people don't consume enough potassium to meet the 4-gram threshold.[179]

Scary...

So even if our ancestors may have had a higher sodium consumption than low-salt proponents assume, one thing that's for sure: they definitely had much higher potassium intakes than modern humans.

Why worry about potassium anyway?

Let me make a quick list of potassium benefits:

  • Contrary to sodium, potassium certainly reduces blood pressure levels.[181-187; 290; 291; 293]

    Even more damning: sodium does not increase your blood pressure levels as much when sufficient potassium is present.

    There's a linear reduction in blood pressure per 600 milligrams of potassium consumed.

    (For nerds: a 1.0 mm Hg in systolic and 0,6 mm Hg in diastolic reduction is achieved per 600 milligrams of potassium.)

    Interestingly enough, potassium also reduces your chances of getting a stroke if you've got high blood pressure - a nice side benefit...

    Sign me up (for the potassium, not the stroke)...

  • Potassium increases the health of your blood vessels.[188-192; 208-211]

    That result is already noticeable within one week. 

    While taking lots of sodium with a meal can reduce the health of your blood vessels, combining that sodium with potassium negates that effect.

    Inflammation in the blood vessels, which is associated with aging, is also reduced with a higher potassium consumption.

    In addition, potassium makes your blood vessels wider. That dilation of your blood vessels may partially explain how potassium lowers blood pressure.

    Overall blood flow also increases with an increase in potassium consumption. More blood flow has great all-round health benefits.

    And there are other heart-healthy benefits:

  • Potassium reduces your chances of getting a stroke, independent from a reduction in blood pressure.[193; 194]

    This benefit is somewhat important to clarify: besides lowering your chances of getting heart disease through lowering blood pressure, potassium lowers that chance even further through other mechanisms.

    Yes, another heart-health advantage...

  • Potassium may lower how much fluid you hold in your body.[212-214]

    Remember that sodium caused a temporary increase in fluid retention? Potassium is sodium's antidote - again.

    Next:

  • Potassium prevents the bone loss that may be associated with a high sodium consumption.[195-198; 203-207]

    I hope you're seeing a pattern here: potassium prevents many of the (possible) side-effects of sodium - this time keeping your bones healthy.

    Potassium additionally also stimulates the restoration of bone mass and prevents osteoporosis.

    Great outcomes...

  • Still afraid of sodium damaging your kidneys? Potassium prevents that sodium side-effect as well.[199-202]

    How?

    Kidney stones can be reduced in number and fully prevented through adequate potassium consumption.

    Simple...

So, why are modern humans consuming so little potassium?

There's one clear reason:

We're consuming far fewer tubers, leafy greens, and other vegetables than our ancestors.

These high-potassium foods have been replaced by foods that contain way less potassium, such as grains. 

Wheat, for example, contains ~360 milligrams of potassium while sweet potato contains the same amount.

"Wait, what? That's the same amount of potassium?"

There's a catch:

You need a far greater quantity of potatoes to ingest the same energy density - measured in calories.

While I'm not an anti-carbohydrate advocate, 100 grams of wheat contains 70 grams of carbohydrates against 20 grams in sweet potatoes.

Consuming 100 grams of carbohydrates from potatoes makes you end up with far greater potassium levels in your body than when you would be consuming grains...

"How about potassium overdoses?"

It's extremely rare to consume too much potassium in a day.

One reason potassium from foods is different than potassium from supplements is that almost all potassium-rich foods are slowly broken down. Even fish, which is generally high in potassium, is broken down far less quickly than potassium supplements.

You additionally need to be careful with potassium supplements if you've got a health problem with excreting potassium.

Potassium-rich foods do not trigger that excretion problem.


I totally binged on eating too many
tubers and vegetables - said no-one ever.

 

But let's get back to the topic of consuming 10 - 15 grams of potassium per day.

In the U.S., men currently get 3 grams on average per day, while women consume somewhat more than 2 grams. 

Modern people thus consume less potassium and end up with a higher sodium to potassium ratio.

Traditional cultures also consume much less sodium in relation to potassium - at least if you exclusively look at the foods consumed. Remember that it's not known whether our ancestors had access to sodium 500,000 or 1,500,000 years ago.

But at least our ancestors did consume lots of potassium to counterbalance the possible side-effects of a higher sodium consumption.

You now know what to do...

Not sure about your personal sodium intake?

Read the next section to gain more clarity...

Return To Table Of Contents

7. SODIUM (LAB) TESTS - KNOW YOUR SALT INTAKE

It's essential to find out how you're responding to an increased sodium intake. Many of the effects of salt cannot be fully understood without knowing how you individually respond to salt.

Adding (more) salt to your food may:

  • improve how well your body handles carbohydrates or may lower your ability to handle them. 
  • increase your blood pressure or lower your blood pressure.
  • lower your stress hormones or increase them.
  • affect how sodium influences your kidney function.

There are two main sodium lab tests, testing the sodium levels in your 1) blood and; 2) urine.

Let's first consider the sodium urine test. In the urine test, you're simply collecting urine for a certain period (or just once), which is then tested for its sodium content.

Unfortunately, measuring the sodium in your urine just once is not maximally reliable.[119; 252; 253]

Why?

Your sodium excretion varies over a 24-hour period. You're excreting most sodium around noon through your urine--at night that excretion is the lowest.[260-263] 

Measurements over a single 24-hour period are not maximally reliable either.

Why?

For the best result, sodium needs to be measured over several days, as sodium excretion varies between different days.

Let's consider another reason why multiple measurements are necessary:

Remember that your intake of other minerals such as calcium or potassium may compete with sodium absorption? Phrased differently, if you ingest tons of calcium and potassium in a given day, more sodium may be removed from your body through your urine.

If you want to be 100% sure of your sodium intake, you'd have to measure your urine levels. The urine sodium lab tests the golden standard right now, even though it's not easy to use.

The test is especially burdensome for laboratories, especially when you measure the urine sodium content for several days.

And although this point should be self-evident, please keep in mind that the sodium lab test does not measure the salt you excrete through your skin into account.

Why urine?

About half the sodium you consume on a daily basis is excreted through the urine in the following 18-31 hours.[252] Only negligible amounts of sodium leaves your body through your backdoor...

Some criteria for this 24-hour urine test are of essential importance:

  • Urine can be stored for a maximum of 45 days. When frozen at minus 20 degrees Celsius, there is no limit to how much later the urine can be analyzed.[263-265]
  • If you're losing grams of sodium through your skin on a daily basis, no urine test can adequately generate reliable data on your body's sodium loss.
  • If at any given day, you're excreting less than 250 milliliters of urine, a 24-hour urine analysis will be invalid and unreliable.
  • The 24-hour sodium urine test should be timed for exactly 24 hours. Collecting urine for 22 hours or 28 hours can give invalid results. All urine should be collected - you should thus sample selectively.

The upside of this urine lab test is that you do not need to rely on memory to determine your sodium intake:

the urine test can correctly establish how much salt you've previously ingested.

Why not keep a simple food log?

There's a catch with memory:

When people are asked their food intake of that or a previous day they've got a bias in their recall.

Urine tests counter that bias.

Another problem:

Databases that can be used to calculate your sodium intake - such as the ones I've used - can also be biased and off, which further complicates using food logs to calculate your exact sodium intake.

You might be thinking: "really, but should you not be looking at a potassium urine test, instead of sodium?"

Yes...

Potassium is a very interesting case, as potassium is a better predictor of your chances of dying (regardless of circumstance) than sodium.[266] 

However, I am writing a sodium-centered article, and diving deep into potassium tests would not do justice to this blog post's subject.

For the best results, you would need to consider your potassium intake as well of course.

Additionally, you can also test for sodium in the blood.[248-251]

The "sodium blood test" is not a sodium-only test, but is usually part of a blood panel that investigates several variables such as sodium, calcium and potassium.

A normal outcome on the blood test is around 140 mmol per liter.

Now we're back at the topic of a sodium deficiency or overdose...

Under 135 mmol per liter, you'll have low sodium levels. In that case, please look at the sodium deficiency symptoms I've included earlier. Score over 145 mmol per liter and you're having an excess of sodium in your blood.

For these tests to be valid, you will need a normal amount of fats and proteins in the blood. Having excessive or low protein or fat content in your blood can skew the outcome of the blood test.

Also make sure you're discussing whether you need to take your medications (if you do so) when the blood test is taken.

Why include both a sodium blood test and urine test?

Simple, they test sodium in different parts of your body.

While I'm not going into full detail here, if you've got low sodium blood levels and high sodium urine levels your body may not store sodium properly. High sodium blood levels and low sodium urine levels point at a different problem: sodium accumulation.

So, should you call your physician?

No...

Fortunately, a blood and urine test are not the only possibilities you have:

Keeping in mind how you feel regarding your salt intake is of essential importance.

How?

Simply test how you're doing on less or more sodium.

Why?

It's hard for people to do sodium lab tests very often. Just watching for sodium deficiency symptoms or sodium consumption side-effects may be the best strategy for most people. Your overall performance and well-being should also be considered.

Testing different sodium levels is really easy because to manipulate your intake you usually only need to control for salt that's added to your food.

Furthermore, you can simply estimate how much you're sweating on a daily basis. If you're sweating a lot, you'll need a higher salt intake.

No matter how high your current intake of sodium through food, I would always experiment with different salt intakes and observe how you feel.

If you're not sweating a lot, you can experiment with a total sodium intake of 3, 4, 5, or 6 grams a day.

To achieve the 3 grams of sodium a day, you'll already need to add some salt to your food (or drink straight salt water, like a boss.) To test what 6 grams do to your body, simply add more salt to your food. 

Test each intake for a week or two until you find your sweet spot.

Again, simply watch how you perform, feel, sleep, and do in life.

Couldn't be simpler... 

Return To Table Of Contents

8. MY SALT INTAKE CRITICALLY APPRAISED

So, how am I doing with my salt intake? 

You'll find out soon...

So now it's my judgment day.

In fact, I'll not just calculate my sodium intake--I'll also include my potassium intake.

Let's have a look at my food intake during a higher-carbohydrate diet in the later summer months:

My breakfast at 6 AM would consist of:

  • 5 eggs (252 mg of potassium; 310 mg of sodium).
  • 600 ml of full-fat milk ( 792 mg potassium; 300 mg sodium).
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of ginger (180 mg potassium; 2 mg of sodium).
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of turmeric (370 mg potassium; 5 mg of sodium.
  • 1 gram of black pepper (negligible potassium and sodium content).
  • 1-3 grams of MSM powder (negligible potassium and sodium content).
  • 10 grams of spirulina (136 mg of potassium; 100 mg of sodium).
  • 3 teaspoons of honey (negligible potassium and sodium content).

The spices and algae are taken in like a shot.

Yes, I know a spice shot is very weird but it gets the job done in under a minute - all the spices I wanted to ingest, very inexpensively.

Meal content: 1,730 mg of potassium; 717 mg of sodium. 

"Lunch" at 11 AM consisted of:

Lunch is a quick meal I'm often eating in the summertime while I'm writing this blog.

  • 5 raw large carrots  (1500 mg of potassium; 350 mg of sodium).
  • 750 milliliters of orange juice (1500 mg of potassium; 8 mg of sodium).
  • 3 tablespoons of gelatin (0 mg of potassium; 25 mg sodium).
  • 1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter (2 mg of potassium; 1 mg of sodium)

Meal content: 3,002 mg of potassium; 384 mg of sodium. 

"Dinner" (2 PM) was made up of:

  • 300 grams of organic pastured beef liver (450 milligrams of potassium; 261 mg of sodium).
  • 900 grams of organic spinach (5000 mg of potassium; 711 mg of sodium).
  • 750 milliliters of orange juice (1500 mg of potassium; 8 mg of sodium).
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (negligible potassium and sodium content).
  • Half a teaspoon of salt (added to the spinach): 840 mg of sodium.

Meal content: 6950 mg of potassium; 1820 mg of sodium.

And no, that 900 grams of organic spinach is not a typo.

Spinach is actually one of my favorite meals, because I can let the spinach defrost during the day, then easily cook it with coconut oil and salt. I'll finally let pan cool down again in water, and eat the spinach in a minute or two.

Yes, I'm lazy...

Is that fully mindful eating?

No.

Would I recommend other people eat like me? No.

But this eating style gets the job done quickly when I'm these writing articles.

Of course, when I'm eating out with others I'm more mindful of my activity. In general, however, because I'm getting this business off the ground I'm trying to get the eating job done as quickly as possible.

The day's total: 11,680 mg of potassium; 2,931 mg of sodium.

I'm not getting an extreme amount of movement each day. I did not sweat heavily during movement either.

I only really sweat when spending an hour in the sun in the afternoon--morning sunlight exposure did not make me sweat. Overall, the amount of sodium I would be losing on that particular day would be minimal.

Notice, additionally, that I'm using an 8-hour eating window. My overall calorie intake was not extremely high either, again, because I'm not moving extremely much.

In the past, I used to exercise 4-6 times a week for 2 hours a day. Nowadays my net daily amount of exercise comes closer to 10-20 minutes, using the same frequency. 

Additional movement is added on top of that exercise...

So what's the assessment? How was I doing that day?

In general, I think the sodium intake is fine. The potassium intake - even though I'm consuming more than 99,9% of other human beings in the developed world, could still be higher.

Why?

I'm a 200 - 210 pounds man. I don't exactly know my weight because I haven't weighed myself in ages. 

Adding in more vegetables or tubers could definitely improve my overall potassium profile. I'd probably do well by replacing some animal proteins with more potatoes.

Overall, I'm felt very good on the diet listed above. Of course, I would eat different foods on different days.

There's yet another experiment that I want to carry out soon: eating way more salt.

Remember that people in the 19th and 20th century often consumed more than 10 grams of added sodium per day.

Some health experts still recommend very high salt consumption levels today (at least, in some instances.)[219]

While I'm skeptical of extreme sodium intakes, I'll update this blog post in the future after I'm done with my high-salt experiment.



(Nerd section: one expert called Ray Peat has influenced my thought in some regards. Peat argues that salt is essential for maintaining blood volume and that the blood pressure lowering effects of salt do not translate in better health. Although I'm somewhat oversimplifying, moreover, Peat also claims that salt is essential to energy production, maintaining a high metabolic rate, and lowering inflammation and stress. What's fascinating is that Peat connects a higher metabolic rate to the slowing of aging. I could not vindicate all of Peat's claims pertaining to sodium, although his blood pressure thesis has influenced my position.[219] For a very erudite Peat-inspired explanation of salt, read the "Are You Still Restricting Salt" article.)



Why am I going to test a higher salt intake?

From the perspective of some studies in the last few decades, I'm actually consuming too little sodium for preventing heart disease.[104; 125; 159] 

Again, an intake of 3,000 - 5,000 or 6,000 milligrams per day of sodium seems to yield the best health outcomes. I'm a heavier person at ~200 pounds of body weight, and yet, I'm consuming a sodium content placed towards the lower end of the optimal spectrum.

In a sense, that optimal intake is not surprising. Many nutrients follow a "U-shaped" curve, where both a very low and very high dose are associated with greater risks, while the middle area under the curve promotes health benefits.

Example?

Some magnesium and potassium is good, and more magnesium and potassium are better. If you continue increasing the dosage of these minerals, however, the benefits go down again and the mineral may even become harmful after a certain point.

Now that I've scrutinized my own sodium intake, let's consider an addendum: chloride.

Why?

Remember that salt consists of 40% sodium, and 60% chloride.

I cannot write about salt without also considering chloride seriously.

The elephant in the room has arrived...

Return To Table Of Contents

9. SALT: AN IMPORTANT ROLE FOR CHLORIDE?

Chloride should not be confused with "chlorine". Although related, chloride and chlorine have a different chemical structure.

I won't go very deep into the topic, and yet, I have to because it's a low-hanging fruit. 

Remember that salt mostly consists of chloride - ~60% in fact.

It's very interesting to see many articles on the web that treat the topic of salt not spending any minute on the topic of chloride.

Big mistake...

Why?

Chloride is sometimes called "the queen of the electrolytes", taking the second place after sodium as a carrier of electricity in the bloodstream.[246] Your body's cells, specifically those in your blood, are rich in chloride.[246; 247]

Chloride and sodium intakes, moreover, are not always tied to each other.

Why?

If you just want to add more sodium to your body, you can also add form such as "sodium phosphate" and "sodium bicarbonate". By ingesting sodium bicarbonate you're consuming sodium without the added chloride.

You thus don't necessarily have to use salt if you want to increase your sodium intake.

It is hypothesized that chloride itself plays a major role in regulating blood pressure.[229-231; 233; 234] In fact, that role of chloride may even exceed the role of sodium in blood pressure regulation - data already known at the beginning of the 1900s.[287]

If you supplement with sodium chloride, for example, your blood pressure rises to a much greater extent than when you supplement with sodium phosphate - indicating a key role of chloride in blood pressure regulation.

Chloride has other roles in your body as well:

Kidney function is directly affected by chloride in an absence of sodium.[238-243] Low chloride levels may be associated with higher risks for dying of heart disease, just as is the case with lower sodium intakes.

There's an overlap between many the effects that have traditionally been attributed to sodium, and chloride's specific effects.

The entire war on sodium may thus be misguided.

So how do you determine your chloride intake? Fortunately, there's a relatively good overlap between sodium and chloride content in different foods.[235; 236] 

If you're cutting down on sodium you're thus generally also cutting down on chloride, and vice versa. Of course, that relationship is directly applicable to salt.

A downside is that the correlation between high sodium and chloride foods is not perfect. You can thus not logically derive a food's chloride levels from its sodium content.

The chloride contents of foods are not measured frequently either.

Your chloride intake is thus not something you can easily control, as many food databases do even not include chloride in their lab analyses of thousands of foods.

Focusing on sodium as the "prime evil" in the blood pressure debate nevertheless remains dangerous, moreover, as some institutions now advice to replace sodium-chloride (salt) with potassium-chloride.

Why could that decision be misinformed?

Well, if chloride is responsible for raising blood pressure instead of sodium, then replacing sodium-chloride (salt) with potassium-chloride won't have a positive effect on blood pressure at all.

Blood pressure levels will stay the same...

How to dose chloride then?

Chloride, again, follows a "U-shaped" curve, in that the optimal intake is a golden mean between two extremes.[244; 245] 

In the sodium debate, I'm thus calling for both a potassium revolution as well as chloride revolution. 

A higher potassium consumption should be stimulated, and more research into the effects of chloride ought to be carried out.

Instead of seeing the "salt debate" as settled, it would be better to understand the fundamentals better first - and only then make epistemological claims...

Oh by the way, you've almost reached the finish line.

There's one more step...

Return To Table Of Contents

10. YOUR BEST SALT ALL-ROUND SALT CHOICE

In this section I'll look at which salt you should consume if you do so...

Not all salt is created equal.

So how do I determine the best salt source?

I consider the number of minerals in salt other than sodium and chloride negligible. All salts are also similar in the sense that they mostly contain sodium and chloride.

So minerals are not the distinguishing factor for choosing the best salt. For me, the most important variable for choosing salt becomes low toxicity.

That's right...

Some types of salt naturally contain higher levels of toxins.[288; 289] 

One such toxin is called "lead", a heavy metal that's very hard to remove from the body.

Lead can already be toxic in truly minute amounts. 

Example?

Even though pink Himalaya salt - which is extracted in Pakistan - is natural, it may contain excessive levels of lead. Not all Himalaya salts contain some lead, but some do.

Natural salts can thus still be high in toxin content...

As it cannot be expected that you, as an individual consumers spend the money to lab test every individual bottle of salt they buy, I'm excluding Himalaya salt from my list of salt recommendations.

Darker salts generally contain toxins as well, as does Celtic sea salt.[288] I'm currently using that latter salt, but won't be buying that type again because of my findings while doing the research for this article.

Overall, regular table salt seems fine as it's generally low in toxins. Keep in mind that table salt is the only salt that's iodized and that you need to make sure you're consuming enough iodine when opting for a natural salt.

(Also remember that natural salts may have less of an effect on blood pressure than table salt)

One limitation to my project of rating different types of salt is that there's not a lot of evidence either in favor or against different salts.

Nevertheless, going off little data is better than having no data at all, and I'm thus recommending to avoid some salt types.

You can see my top-1 salt recommendation below:

Murray River Gourmet Salt Flakes:

That's right.

There's no second recommendation.

Just a top-1...

Why?

Two independent samples those Murray River Gourmet salt flakes, coming from that same environment, showed low levels of toxins such as lead, arsenic, and mercury.

Right now, that salt is simply the best choice...

The avoid list of salts that have been tested for a higher heavy metal content are:[288]

  • Mediterranean sea salt
  • Sel de Guerande - a French Celtic sea salt
  • Alaea Hawaiian sea salt
  • Hawaii Kai black salt
  • Kala Namak Indian black salt
  • The French Fumee de Sel Chardonnay
  • Himalaya salt

Yes, some of these outcomes are a surprise, even to me...

Again, the recommended Australian salt I've listed before has been tested twice (in different samples) to contain few toxins. 

Now you know which salt to buy.

What's left to discuss?

Nothing.

Let's conclude...

By the way: do you want to receive a free shareable infographic that contains my 10 best practical salt tips? Subscribe below:

Return To Table Of Contents

11. CONCLUSION: SALT IS COMPLICATED

Let's return the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), American Heart Organization (AHA), and others. These organizations recommended that you take in about 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Those recommendations have been propagated for decades. That debate is not just medical, but also political.[218]

In a sense, such salt recommendations can still be justified in the face of pre-historical humans and traditional societies possibly having low salt intakes.

I hope my argument demonstrates, however, that it's certainly not self-evident that (pre-)historical hunter-gatherer societies are necessarily tied to having low salt intakes.

That argument is a big problem for the low-sodium proponents.

The solution is simple:

  • For most people, keep sodium intake between 3-6 grams per day. That sodium intake translates into adding 1 non-heaping tablespoon of salt added to food at any given day.
  • Cut out processed food, as you don't know how much salt you're ingesting through that stuff. Also - although this point is self-evident - always read food labels for their sodium content.
  • Increase your salt intake over 6 grams if and only if you're 1) sweating a lot and 2) you're a salty sweater.
  • Make sure to consume enough potassium. Ingesting enough potassium is more important than finding the perfect salt intake. 
  • Measure your blood pressure, and if you're salt sensitive, cut down your sodium levels to the low range of the U shaped curve.

You can do it...

It's easy.

Sure, changing your salt habits takes some effort.

But once you understand the drill it's simple.

Hit the sweet spot once and you can do that ten or a hundred times.

Your health will thank you in the long run.

Small change, big impact...

Alea iacta est (the die is cast).



*Post can contain affiliate links. Read my affiliate, medical, and privacy disclosure for more information.

Author: Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MSc - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MSc).



See other blog posts:

Rethinking Magnesium: Why You're Deficient And Need To Supplement

Zinc: Forgotten Mineral? Best Zinc Foods, Supplements, And Secrets

Cannabis: CBD (Oil) And THC For Health? The Scientific Verdict (2018)

Vitamin K: Why You're Deficient (And What To Do About It)

The Ultimate Bone Broth, Gelatin, and Collagen Protein Guide (2018)

 

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