Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Jun

Salt: What Is It Good For?

saltOther than saturated fat, I can’t think of a nutrient that’s been so universally maligned and demonized as salt. All the experts hate it and recommend that we get as little of it as possible. They even all seem to have their own little anti-salt slogans. The American Diabetes Association recommends between 2300 and 1500 mg of sodium per day (“Be Sodium Savvy“). The American Heart Association wants you eating less than 1500 mg per day (“Shaking the Salt Habit“) and claims that 97% of young people already eat way too much salt. The other ADA – the American Dietetic Association – also recommends between 2300 and 1500 mg, but their slogan is far inferior (“Slice Your Sodium Intake“). It’s quite the pile-on, isn’t it?

Why does salt strike mortal terror into the hearts of so many?

Back in the 1980s, a massive global study of salt intake and blood pressure called INTERSALT was undertaken. Overall, it showed a modest association between the two, but some groups, particularly the undeveloped, non-industrial peoples who had very little access to salt (and other trappings of industrialization), had blood pressure that was generally extremely low. Foremost among these groups were the Yanomami of the Amazon rainforest. The Yanomami have very low sodium excretion, which indicates very low sodium intake, and very low blood pressure. Even the elderly Yanomami enjoyed low blood pressure. This was convincing. I mean, it sounds convincing, right? Low salt intake, low lifelong incidence of hypertension – how much more cut and dry can you get? This low salt/low blood pressure connection seemed to also apply to other groups who happened to be living more traditional ways of life.

Except that there’s another non-industrialized group (and you only need one) whose slightly different results kinda muck up the Yanomami argument: the Kuna of Panama.

Among the Kuna, a tribe native to Panama, both salt intake and blood pressure were also historically low well into old age. To study whether the two variables were linked, researchers examined a group of “acculturated” Kuna with ample access to salt and an otherwise strict adherence to their traditional way of life. Little changed but the salt intake, in other words. But, despite consuming an average of 2.6 daily teaspoons of salt (and sometimes up to 6 teaspoons), the Kuna did not have hypertension, not even in old age. There was no change between the hypertensive statuses of 20 year old Kuna and 60 year old Kuna.

All in all, drastic reduction of sodium can reduce blood pressure by a few points. The evidence is pretty consistent on that. But the example of the Kuna shows that there’s way more to blood pressure than how much salt you eat, like how much potassium you eat.

Consider two recent Cochrane meta-analyses. The first, on sodium restriction and blood pressure, found that for people with hypertension the mean effect of sodium restriction was -5.39 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and -2.82 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure. In normotensive people, the figures were -2.42 mm Hg and -1.00 mm Hg, respectively. Decent reductions, I suppose, but what about potassium and blood pressure?

The upper intake of potassium was associated with over a 7-point drop in systolic blood pressure and a 2-point drop in diastolic blood pressure, but only in people with hypertension (the people who actually should lower blood pressure). Unfortunately, the official recommendations for sodium and potassium intake cannot be met simultaneously. Yep – the experts want you to eat in a way that is literally impossible to accomplish. Inspires confidence, doesn’t it?

Let’s forget about blood pressure for a second, because there’s also way more to health than the meager drops in blood pressure afforded by sodium restriction. Recent evidence suggests that for many people, all out salt reduction has an overall negative impact on several other aspects of health:

In 2011, one study showed that seven days on a low salt diet increased insulin resistance in healthy men and women when compared to a higher-salt diet.

Another study showed that while reducing salt moderately improved the blood pressure of hypertensive patients by a mere 4.18 and 1.98 points for systolic and diastolic, respectively (but not of people with normal blood pressure), it also had negative effects on multiple other health markers, including increased triglycerides and LDL and elevated stress hormones.

Another 2011 study found that eating a low salt diet (under 3 grams of sodium per day, or just over a teaspoon of salt) and a high salt diet (from 6-7 grams of sodium per day, or well over two teaspoons of salt) both increased the risk of stroke and heart attack, while eating between four and six grams of sodium, or about two teaspoons of salt, each day was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular incidents.

A recent study found that salt intake followed a J-curve, with low and high intakes increasing arterial plaque formation and a medium intake decreasing it.

Sodium depletion due to “low-sodium nutrition” has been shown to trigger overtraining-like symptoms, including hypertension and sleeping disorders.

The greatest health marker of all – being alive – also has an interesting association with salt intake. It seems that, time and time again, folks with a “medium” salt intake live longer than people who eat too little salt or too much salt. That amounts to roughly 4000 mg of sodium, or close to two teaspoons of regular salt.

Sodium intake affects other markers of vascular health beyond just blood pressure, too:

Greater sodium excretion in the urine (a common marker of sodium intake) may be positively associated with large arterial compliance. Large arterial compliance is a measure of arterial elasticity, or the ability of one’s arteries to handle fluctuations in pressure. Stiffer arteries are more prone to damage.

Low sodium status (whether dietarily-induced or caused by increased sodium loss) can also increase aldosterone, an adrenal hormone that seeks to preserve sodium in the body when it’s perceived to be scarce. High aldosterone levels are associated with insulin resistance, and aldosterone blockers are being explored as potential treatments of vascular disease and hypertension.

Well, what is salt good for?

That question honestly isn’t asked very often in the literature, but we can surmise some of the benefits just by looking at what happens in people on a low-sodium diet. If that connection persists, then adequate (not excess) salt probably helps prevent some of those problems, like insulin resistance, plaque formation, increased stress hormones, worsened blood lipids, and elevated aldosterone.

There are, however, outright positive effects of salt consumption, too:

Salt supports hydration, especially during exercise.

Of the electrolytes, potassium gets all the attention, even though sodium is just as important. Studies show that sodium loading before exercising in the heat increases fluid volume and reduces the physiological strain of the subsequent training. In other words, consuming sodium before training “involved less thermoregulatory and perceived strain during exercise and increased exercise capacity in warm conditions.” You can workout harder, longer, and more effectively with sufficient sodium in your diet. Salt loading also boosts performance in thermoneutral conditions, not just hot weather.

I remember drinking so much plain water during one race that I actually became dehydrated from pissing out all my electrolyte stores and almost passed out. From that point on, a few teaspoons of salt would solve the problem and prevent it from occurring again. The much ballyhooed bananas didn’t do it. Only pure, unmitigated salt did the trick. Hardcore ketogenic athlete/doctor Peter Attia does the same with his bullion cubes, which he credits for maintaining his performance.

Salt may help you cope with stress.

This is a guess on my part, based on several lines of evidence. First, salt has been shown to speed up cortisol clearance from the blood. The faster you clear cortisol, the quicker you recover from a stressor. If cortisol lingers, you “stay stressed.”

Second, there’s evidence that stress increases salt appetite. In lab mice, activation of the sympathetic nervous system by a stressor causes them to prefer salt water to plain water. Similar findings have been observed in rats subjected to stress. In humans, acute bouts of stress don’t seem to increase salt appetite, but chronic stress does increase intake of salty, processed junk food. Obviously, eating McDonald’s fries doesn’t help improve your health, but I find it highly plausible that salting your healthy Primal food to taste could be an important ally against stress. It’s just that when most people need “something salty,” they reach for potato chips, not a couple soft boiled eggs dipped in sea salt.

Third, as I mentioned above, low sodium diets are often associated with elevated stress hormones.

Personally, I’m drawn to salty foods – often jerky or macadamia nuts sprinkled with some sea salt – when I’m up against a deadline, and it seems to help.

It makes food taste better.

Yes, some people would claim this attribute as a negative. Adding salt to food will make you more likely to overeat and gain weight and develop the diseases associated with weight gain and so on and so forth. But I’ve always held that eating good food is one of life’s highest, purest pleasures. If your food doesn’t taste good, there’s no point in eating it. We’re not machines concerned only with fuel. We are sensory, sensual beings with the capacity for appreciation of thousands of flavors. To deny the pleasure of food is to deny our humanity.

Salt can also make otherwise unpalatable – but healthy – food somehow palatable. A plate of steamed kale is boring and bitter. A plate of steamed kale with sea salt and olive oil is delicious and inspiring. Plain broccoli? Kids everywhere are spitting it into napkins and stuffing them into their pockets. Broccoli stir-fried with soy sauce (or tamari, if you please)? Kids everywhere are mailing in their dues (and signing up for auto-pay) for the clean plate club.

You could drop your salt intake to half a teaspoon and get a three or four point drop in your blood pressure. Of course, you might not enjoy your food anymore, your performance in the gym or on the trail would likely suffer, your stress hormones might be elevated, you might start feeling overtrained without doing any actual training, you could become insulin resistant, and you may have trouble clearing (the elevated) cortisol from your blood. But, hey: your blood pressure readings will likely improve by a few points! Or, you could keep your salt intake up around two teaspoons, give or take, simply by salting your food to taste, and avoid all that other stuff.

Your choice.

What do you think, readers? Do you fear salt? Do you relish it? Do you find your salt appetite increases under certain conditions? Let me know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I use a little on my eggs. I did read where salt in water helped it with being absorbed. Surface tension or something like that. Just a dash in a glass of water sure makes a change, I use sea salt only.

    Ron wrote on June 12th, 2013
  2. Since I switched to Himalayan pink salt, I will not use any other!
    It tastes so much better and has much more nutrient content in it.

    Give it a Google and see for yourself.

    Jay wrote on June 12th, 2013
  3. Very interesting. Here’s my dilemma. I have CML and take a cancer drug. One of the side effects of the drug is it makes me retain water. To keep the bloating to a minimum I watch my intake of salt. Do I add salt to my food and look like a whale or do I continue to not add salt to my food?

    Kim wrote on June 12th, 2013
  4. “Salt good” was my brutal exposure to the fallacy of conventional wisdom. You know what happens when you take a very active person with mild hyperhydrosis (aka one sweaty beeyotch) who eats mostly unprocessed food and plop her down in an unprecedented heat wave? Mild sodium deficiency. I didn’t even know why I felt so awful until sheer instinct drove me to shoot straight soy sauce. A little Googling later and my eyes were opened.

    Violette wrote on June 12th, 2013
  5. Check out the discussions on salt in: Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James Wilson and Jonathan V. Wright (Jan 1, 2001). Dr. Wilson claims that the anti-salt campaign has done more damage than good and he also confirms that excess salt can only moderately increase blood pressure in already hypertensive individuals (but not in those with normal blood pressure). He recommends increased salt for those with stressed or low functioning adrenal glands (sodium chloride, not potassium salts). I went through a phase of seriously sub-functioning adrenals after a bout with Lyme disease (adrenals were already weakened by a previous lifestyle). I start every morning with one tsp of salt, one Tbsp lemon juice in hot water instead of coffee or tea. Really makes a difference in my morning energy level. For years, I also took specific herbal supplements and eventually medication, to moderate success. I recently stopped both of those and started taking Cordyceps (a specific mushroom) with more noticeable improvement. However, the salt and lemon drink is still part of my morning routine, as well as anytime water alone no longer quenches my thirst.

    By the way, though I don’t care for his including rice in his recommended diet, Dr. Wilson’s book is one of the most in depth on the market (there may be other good ones since I last checked, but there are some really poor ones). The adrenals produce some 50 different hormones, so stressed or low functioning adrenals can cause a lot of different health issues. In post menopausal women, the adrenals are almost the only source of hormones. It’s worth it to focus on healthy adrenal glands, and salt is critical.

    Jan wrote on June 12th, 2013
  6. Another reason to love French cooking. Has anyone seen Jacques Pepin lately? He looks amazing! (Always salt and pepper).

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on June 12th, 2013
  7. Thanks for the article Mark. It may be that I need more salt in my diet. I do eat some nuts with salt but just a little here and there. Some mornings I like to make what I call roast beef tea. It’s the drippings from the roast with some butter added to hot water, mmmmmmm. Maybe I’ll add a little more salt next time. Perhaps it will help with those horrible charlie-horses that wake me up some nights. I try to eat potassium rich foods but maybe not enough?
    And thank you to the others who have given your experience and suggestions.

    2Rae wrote on June 12th, 2013
  8. Salt is good. As long as people recognize that sea salt is thumbs up and iodized table salt is a thumbs down.

    Nancy wrote on June 12th, 2013
  9. Mark & Fellow Applers:

    I was very disappointed in how the article talked about recommended intake in mg then magically switches to a recommendation of “2 tsp/day”. If you go out to eat, yes even a primal meal at a large enough chain, the nutrition info for sodium will be in mg. If you buy a can of tomato sauce or artichoke hearts in water it will list sodium in mg. I have a hard time relating that back. So having some time on my hands, I thought I’d help out. Mark, feel free to use this. My scale is only accurate to a gram, and I used a measuring teaspoon leveled with a flat edge. also, all salts I’ve seen list serving size as 1/4tsp.

    1/4tsp:
    mass/sodium
    Morton Canning 1.5g/590mg
    Morton Kosher 1.2g/480mg
    Celtic Sea – course 1.3g/410mg
    Real Salt (sea)- fine 1.4g/530mg

    so 2 tsp of each of these has the following sodium:

    4720mg – Morton Canning salt (pure salt, no caking agents or additives)
    3200mg – Morton Kosher salt
    2523mg – Celtic Sea Salt (coarse grind)
    3786mg – Real Salt(tm) sea salt (fine grind)

    Hope that helps.

    paleo-leo wrote on June 12th, 2013
    • Note on the above posts, my measurements are not 1/4 tsp x 8 to get 2tsp. I actually measured the amounts out. If my scale had been more accurate than a gram, they might be closer to the expected amounts.

      Leo

      paleo-leo wrote on June 12th, 2013
  10. Agree that some salt is necessary, but I think what you’re missing which fundamental is that the majority of us eat more than the recommend amount of salt per day. Due to commercial foods and also processed meats which there is plenty of in the primal diet we are all likely to eat way beyond the healthy recommended salt intake. I would be extremely wary if people think they are going to cure ailments by increasing their salt intake. I think you have also missed that salt has an extremely damaging effect on kidney and other organ function. Salt and smoking are the two quickest ways to kill your kidney! Of which kidney disease is on of the quickest growing killer in Australia behind heard disease. I sure wouldnt be being so casual about your salt intake!!!

    Claire wrote on June 12th, 2013
  11. Season. Your. Food.

    Graham wrote on June 12th, 2013
  12. After going Primal I discovered that I was having low blood pressure issues. I would get dizzy standing up and my BP was low. I attribute it to eating almost exclusively fresh food, almost nothing comes from a bag or a box. There just isn’t enough salt in fresh vegetables and meats! Now I know I have to Intentionally remind myself to add salt.
    Good post Mark, another example of doctors knowing a lot about emergency/critical care, but shooting in the dark about what keeps us healthy regarding nutrition.

    Sgt.Gator wrote on June 12th, 2013
  13. In my n=1 experiment of low salt had no effect on my BP. Next going 80% paleo, I still drink 12oz of milk daily with whey powder, my BP was reduced my to normal levels in 3 weeks. Over the past year I’ve experimented some and am now firmly convinced gluten caused my two decades of high BP that required medication. My doctor would not/could not believe gluten was the cause, so I voted with my dollars and found a new doctor:)

    Gluten FREE for year and the rest of my LIFE!!!!!!!!!

    Edward wrote on June 12th, 2013
  14. “If your food doesn’t taste good, there’s no point in eating it. We’re not machines concerned only with fuel. We are sensory, sensual beings with the capacity for appreciation of thousands of flavors. To deny the pleasure of food is to deny our humanity.”

    Ehh, a bit inaccurate! To say that Grok enjoyed his food as much we do would be a gross exaggeration. Tribal food has been described as plain, and often disgusting (flesh was eaten even if it had started to rot – something I’ve read in multiple sources). Apparently they are so lazy (or simply not wasteful), they’d rather eat rotten meat than go hunting. We ARE machines mostly concerned with fuel, and this is how Grok lived. He was not obsessed with the taste of food. And the lines I quoted above seem to contradict the statement in the same paragraph: “Adding salt to food will make you more likely to overeat and gain weight…” The better it tastes, the more likely one is to overeat. You said it yourself.

    Brian Kozmo wrote on June 12th, 2013
    • “Tribal” food? I’m not sure what you mean by that. I spent some time in Africa where a common food among poor tribal people is cassava paste “fufu” and it is quite plain, but it’s not really very primal given that it’s farmed and has to processed a lot to remove the cyanide.
      I’ve never met any hunter gatherers though, so I can’t speak for their food. That said, a lot of archeological digs have evidence of different types of herbs that may have been used to flavor their food.

      Miryem wrote on June 12th, 2013
      • “Apparently they are so lazy (or simply not wasteful), they’d rather eat rotten meat than go hunting.”

        Hunting carried the very real risk of death, injury, and perhaps most terrifying to an era before germ-theory, the sort of wounding that would fester and cause agonizing distress before death, so you can hardly call it “lazy”! :)

        What pre-agricultural people did from necessity (eg., infanticide or killing an aging leader to take his status in the tribe) needs to be looked at in context.

        I would suggest salty and sweet foods don’t happen to be tasty out of chance, but because we’re hardwired to find them pleasurable because they’re necessary (sweetness – massive calorie load, back when calories were life and not some devil to avoid) and if you’ve ever fasted, you know how good ANY food tastes when you’re truly hungry. Salt has no calories so evolution would have selected for the people who found it most enjoyable, and therefore didn’t get crippling cramp while hunting, or faint during the hot weather.

        Patrick wrote on June 12th, 2013
      • I always thought tribal pertained to hunter-gatherers, but I guess I was wrong. I meant hunter and gatherers, then, not tribal.

        Brian Kozmo wrote on June 13th, 2013
  15. I’m surprised you didn’t touch on the differences between table salt and real salt. The former being a chemical abomination of the later, and being completely devoid of all its beneficial nutrients.

    B-Mac wrote on June 12th, 2013
  16. Also worth considering is that salt restriction (such is in those clinical trials) increased renin by 300% and noradrenaline by 30%, which is the most likely explanation of elevated oxidative stress and insulin resistance in low salt diets. The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system increases oxidative stress and arterial stiffness and is the therapeutic target of blood pressure medications. Another reason to not restrict salt

    Steven wrote on June 12th, 2013
  17. I recently read and article by Dr Shames about the important of salt for menopausal women. Thanks for the information here. I like my salted food and to know it helps to reduce stress is important for balancing my hormone levels.

    Leslie wrote on June 12th, 2013
  18. I am living in Costa Rica, They have what they call sea salt,but it contains flouride. Not my favorite added ingredient. Hard to avoid here. I thought the salt co’s added sugar to salt to get people to use more salt. The sweet takes away some of the saltyness

    Terry wrote on June 12th, 2013
  19. I actually have chronic low blood pressure due to a genetic connective tissue disease. I cannot physically consume too much salt. On average days, I should be aiming for 6,000-10,000mg. On bad days, such as very hot days, or if there’s a thunderstorm, I have to try and eat over 10,000mg.

    Despite having a rheumatologist confirm this, as well as blood tests to show that my sodium is still on the lower range of normal when I aim for 10,000, many people still give me evil looks, as I am a nutrition student.

    Telling people to reduce salt intake to reduce blood pressure does not make sense at all. The rise in blood pressure due to salt is only temporary, which is obvious to those of us with low BP – otherwise, we’d only have to eat high salt occasionally, instead of every single day at least 3 times a day.

    I appreciate that pages such as this are finally understanding that salt is not the enemy – in fact, for those of us with low BP, going low salt is dangerous and could even be deadly.

    Samantha wrote on June 12th, 2013
  20. Where did Grok get so much salt?

    Miryem wrote on June 12th, 2013
  21. Interesting.
    One time I came back from a particularly strenuous hike without enough water and felt really quite nauseous. Someone suggested I not only drink water but swallow a packet of salt. It worked! I felt fine in minutes.

    Miryem wrote on June 12th, 2013
  22. The salt/cortisol link won’t load for me…

    Tanya wrote on June 12th, 2013
  23. My first introduction to Paleo was reading Prof. Cordain’s book including the section “toxic salt”. So when we initially started Paleo, I used almost no salt in my cooking. It did fine at certain meals but there were others where I would lament the salt. I knew even just a little salt would make this or that ingredient better.

    Eventually I came across Chris Kresser’s series of articles on salt and started adding it back in. It was a relief and joy to me to be able to salt food to taste when I cook. I am glad Mark agrees salt is OK. I still feel like I use less salt than usual, though, and when I serve food to non-Paleo folks I wonder if I have seasoned it well to THEIR tastes! oh well

    Jesse wrote on June 12th, 2013
  24. I love salting my food with sea salt!! My blood markers have all drastically improved since eating a paleo diet and we certainly dont hold back on salting our steaks before putting them on the BBQ.

    When you aren’t consuming processed packaged foods, you take out that salt intake.

    Great post mark!

    Emily wrote on June 12th, 2013
  25. I really wish you had include some evidence on the benefit of salt to reduce exercise-induced cramping. I used to get horrendous foot cramps after strenuous exercise. They didn’t happen all the time but when they did, I can imagine few more painful experiences and I often worked out in fear that one would hit. I tend to sweat more than most and they were heavily dehydration based. I am fortunate that I also have very low blood pressure and a resting pulse rate of 55/min. After learning more about primal and this cramping problem I upped my salt intake and the cramps are gone. I am so grateful that we can now get real nutrition information instead of the horrible lobby-based government recommendations that have been plauging this country for so long.

    Sarah wrote on June 12th, 2013
  26. I’m curious about the “real salt versus processed salt” theme here, and I’m concerned about the very high levels of fluoride found in Himalayan salt, because fluoride is something NOBODY needs added to their diet.

    “In India an estimated 60 million people have been poisoned by well water contaminated by excessive fluoride, which is dissolved from the granite rocks. . The effects are particularly evident in the bone deformations of children.” From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride_toxicity

    So I would encourage people to do their research on this before assuming all “natural” salt is good, and especially so when the salt may be from a source that previous generations have left well alone.

    Patrick wrote on June 12th, 2013
  27. Good writeup.

    Salt also helps in digestion by helping in production in enzyme production.

    We evolved near water bodies and mostly near sea so we might be consuming higher amount of salt then it is assumed.

    vizeet wrote on June 12th, 2013
  28. When I was newly primal, I found at work I was suffering when I climbed up and down my high stool (Im a bank teller and we sit atop very high office type chairs in Australia) and I took a break and quickly googled “feeling faint, low carb” and read somewhere I was suffering from postural hypotension. The cure – salt. Given that I was at work and needed a very quick fix, I grabbed the nearest salt shaker, dumped a fair amount (half teaspoon perhaps) into a glass of warm water and swallowed it down. Besides the fact that it tasted AMAZING, which surprised me, it totally fixed my fainting spells. It was so fast and such a significant and instant change I likened it to someone flicking a light swtich. One minute I was vague and blacking out and the next I was alert, cognitive ability was improved hugely and freakishly fast.
    I was obviously dumping a lot of water due to my low carb lifestyle and needed some of my salts replaced. I have never suffered again because I now add salt to my eggs and enjoy salted nuts etc.
    Just thought this post might help some other newbies.

    Jane Britton wrote on June 12th, 2013
  29. Its about the quality of the salt. Not all salts are equal. Natural sea salt over any other wild salts sold in stores is supreme. Particularly unbleached and unprocessed.

    Antonio wrote on June 12th, 2013
  30. I never worried about salt, since my physical activities made me sweat a lot, so I thought I had to replace it. But what I noticed is that I had to salt all my meals additionally befor going primal and my husband never did (although a runner). And since going primal I am much more salt sensitive and now we seem to have the same sense for saltiness. I think just to reduce salt is not getting to the root of the problem. It is the SAD or SWD that is the problem. Eliminate grains, sugar and artificial food – then any problem solves itself.

    Margit wrote on June 13th, 2013
  31. Interestly if we don’t incur enough sodium levels on a paleo diet, how do we reconcile this in relation to how “Grok” would have been affected by this. He obviously must have been affected by the j curve Mark speaks of in his article which leaves the question open that did paleo mans chronic low level of sodium consumption cause issues confirmed in the studies cited above like insulin resistance, plaque formation, increased stress hormones, worsened blood lipids, and elevated aldosterone. The same question should be asked of the amazon tribes who although showed low BP with their very low sodium diet should also have been affected by the J curve trend and exhibit similar negative health issues to poor Grok who hardly ever came across Sodium.

    Now I would expect the answers to these questions to be a resounding No and in saying that my real question would be that in the cases of the Amazon tribes and indeed Paleo man himself what other factors negated the need for sodium intake?

    PJ Coady wrote on June 13th, 2013
    • “Interestly if we don’t incur enough sodium levels on a paleo diet, how do we reconcile this in relation to how “Grok” would have been affected by this.”

      He probably freely tucked into salt from local deposits, or drank a small amount of seawater if he craved it, since unlike us poor so-and-so’s he hadn’t been brainwashed to believe it was bad for him. He fancied salt and knew weher something salty could be found? Down the old gizzard it went, and no worries, just like a dog. :)

      Some people today don’t eat enough salt when doing primal/paleo because they’ve been repeatedly told it’s terribly bad for them, and that kind of thing is hard to just shake off.

      The same as the fat-dance – I read paleo/primal forums and see people asking how Grok got enough calories eating meat and veg with no major starches or cereals, then you read that person’s list of what they eat and it’s all chicken breasts and lean beef, which bears no resemblance to the VAST array of highly fatty stuff eaten in the past, which included brains and offal on an equal footing with any other kind of meat.

      You have to TOTALLY divorce from contemporary dietary “advice” in order to truly grok what Grok was doing. :)

      Read some forums right now though and you’ll see people take on board that fat’s not bad, but still mainly exist on lean muscle tissue instead of fatty organ meats, just because decades of conditioning are VERY hard to shake off.

      Patrick wrote on June 13th, 2013
      • PS: Salt has a FANTASTICALLY important place in recorded history, obviously the word salary is derived from it and gives some indication of its importance, but it’s been valued for far longer than the recent (and agricultural) Classical era:

        “Evidence indicates that Neolithic people of the Precucuteni Culture were boiling the salt-laden spring water through the process of briquetage to extract the salt as far back as 6050 BC. The salt extracted from this operation may have had a direct correlation to the rapid growth of this society’s population soon after its initial production began. The harvest of salt from the surface of Xiechi Lake near Yuncheng in Shanxi, China dates back to at least 6000 BC, making it one of the oldest verifiable saltworks.

        … In Africa, the Tuareg have traditionally maintained routes across the Sahara especially for the transportation of salt by Azalai (salt caravans).”

        From Wikipedia entry on “Salt.”

        You don;t go to that much trouble for a non-essential item, no matter how nice it tastes, and I do think our taste preference for it is another bit of evidence of how good for us it is.

        So I doubt Grok was different, and maybe the Amazonian tribes have adapted for low-salt intake over generations, with the people best able to cope being the ones to successfully populate the area with thweir offspring? That last point’s just a guess but salt’s importance throughout recorded history has a factual basis.

        Patrick wrote on June 13th, 2013
  32. I only tend to add salt as seasoning for foods. Often I beleive people can be quick to villainise one component of a generally bad diet. We are now asking the correct questions and realising whch foods benefit our bodies.

    No more Salt Assault!

    David wrote on June 13th, 2013
  33. this doesnt surprise me, my blood pressure was 165/99, three days later after taking some himilayan salt on food, bi carb soda in water, beetroot juice, went to 140/85, that was a week ago, i bet its lower again, ive been doing paleo/primal type for a while and cuttting out salt as much as possible, i will add modest amounts from now on, thanks for the info, you just cant believe mainstream advise on anything.

    Johnny wrote on June 13th, 2013
  34. I love my salt and always have. I wont increase or decrease my current amount. I go by how I feel, if I want something salty I get something salty, simple as that.

    I remember reading a book called “Marine Sniper” written by Charles Henderson about Carlos Hathcock II and his tour in Vietnam. Carlos said they use to take two canteens with them into the bush; one had water and the other had water with a salt packet in it from the mess tent. When they started to feel nauseous they would slam the whole canteen to put the salts back in their system. He said they would feel right as rain in just a few minutes. Not a bad thing to have on hand weather on the battlefield or on the training field I guess.

    Jeremy wrote on June 13th, 2013
  35. I totally get this article. When I was under a lot of stress and at my lowest I was craving sea salt, vinegar, and olive oil on everything. Not to mention steak. I think my “primal” brain/senses were trying to tell me what I needed in order to clear the cortisol from my body. I am still not 100% Primal, but I am as close as I can come without getting burned out and falling completely off the horse so to speak. I guess I consider myself “natural” I still eat the occasional serving of black beans or rice, but I completely abstain from baked goods and confections. Plus I noticed that consuming this higher level of sea salt did not cause my hands and feet to swell like other salty foods aka: potato chips.

    Rachel wrote on June 13th, 2013
  36. I was brought up not to add salt to anything and I find food tastes great without it. I dont eat any processed foods purely because i dont like the taste. I think there is enough salt added to food so we don’t need to add extra.

    Christine wrote on June 13th, 2013
  37. The Salt Institute is a wonderful place for accurate information on salt.

    http://www.saltinstitute.org/

    Beth wrote on June 13th, 2013
  38. Thank you for this timely post, Mark.

    We must not forget, however, that the studies were probably performed within the context of a “standard” diet.
    It is known, that on a low-carb diet, there is an increased need for salt and salt loss from the kidneys!
    On a very high carb diet and being insulin resistant, the body hangs on to salt, so less will be needed.
    The real culprit here seems to be something else than salt.

    Sabine wrote on June 13th, 2013
  39. Hello, does anybody know if we actually need salt (in form of NaCl) or do we just need sodium? And if our bodies actually need only sodium, are there any alternatives for sufficient sodium ingestion? Some kind of a non-salty, sodium-rich food or something like that :)

    Rok Sprogar wrote on June 13th, 2013
    • If you’re asking do we need sodium chloride as opposed to just sodium the answer is yes, we need chloride, it’s a vital electrolyte, the medical name for low chloride levels is Hypochloremia – from webMD:

      “A chloride test measures the level of chloride in your blood or urine. Chloride is one of the most important electrolytes in the blood. It helps keep the amount of fluid inside and outside of your cells in balance. It also helps maintain proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of your body fluids. Tests for sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate are usually done at the same time as a blood test for chloride.”

      Respectfully (because tone’s hard to convey in a comment box :) ) I can’t think of any good reason to split naturally occurring sodium chloride and seek out only the sodium part anyway, salt is a substance even animals seek out, that’s the kind of micronutrient messing that’s completely against ancestral widsom and primal/paleo lifestyle, at least as far as I understand it.

      Patrick wrote on June 14th, 2013
    • The chloride is also critical for digestion, providing the chloride in hydrochloric acid which breaks down foods in our stomach.

      Beth wrote on June 15th, 2013
  40. Although I agree with most of their article, the articles on low salt diet causing health problems might have a flaw in them – does a “low salt diet” mean eating paleo without adding salt, or a SAD diet with low salt? The number of supermarket items now advertised as “low sodium” is growing every day, and I doubt they achieve this without further processing and substitution of other artificial ingredients to preserve them and maintain a flavour. I’d wager anyone eating these foods is likely to see a host of changes in their health markers, regardless of the effect of the sodium itself.

    Not that I’m arguing against moderation, but I’m going to take these articles with a pinch of… Oops

    Chris Chippendale wrote on June 14th, 2013

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