Are Salt and Sodium Bad for You?

Other 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 and claims that 97% of young people already eat way too much salt. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) also recommends keeping sodium below 2300 mg.

Why has salt been cast in such a negative light?

Why Salt Became Worrisome

Back in the 1980s, researchers launched a massive global study of salt intake and blood pressure called INTERSALT. 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.1 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.

Sounds convincing, right? Low salt intake, low lifelong incidence of hypertension – how much more cut and dry can you get? This low salt and 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” Kuna2 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. In other words, there was no change between the hypertensive statuses of 20 year old Kuna and 60 year old Kuna, even though they ate more salt.

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,3 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,4 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.5 Yep – the experts want you to eat in a way that is literally impossible to accomplish. Inspires confidence, doesn’t it?


Read next: Electrolytes 101: What Do Electrolytes Do?

Ways Sodium Benefits the Body (You Cannot Live Without It)

Here is a selection of scientific studies that show some of the many functions of sodium in your body.

  • Greater sodium excretion in the urine (a common marker of sodium intake) may be positively associated with large arterial compliance.6 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 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,7 and aldosterone blockers are being explored as potential treatments of vascular disease8 and hypertension.
  • Studies show that sodium loading before exercising in the heat increases fluid volume and reduces the physiological strain of the subsequent training.9 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,10 not just hot weather.

I remember drinking so much plain water during one race that I actually became dehydrated from excreting out all of 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. Bananas didn’t cut it. Only pure, unmitigated salt did the trick. Hardcore ketogenic athlete Dr. Peter Attia does the same with his bullion cubes, which he credits for maintaining his performance.

Salt May Help Your Stress Response

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.11 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.12 Similar findings have been observed in rats subjected to stress.13 In humans, acute bouts of stress don’t seem to increase salt appetite, but chronic stress does increase intake of salty, processed junk food.14 Obviously, eating drive-thru 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, when I’m up against a deadline, I’m drawn to salty foods – often jerky or macadamia nuts sprinkled with some sea salt. It seems to help.

Limiting Salt Could Have Negative Consequences

Let’s put blood pressure aside for a second, because there’s way more to health than blood pressure. Plenty of 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.15
  • Researchers also 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),16 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.17
  • Researchers found that salt intake followed a J-curve, with low and high intakes increasing arterial plaque formation and a medium intake decreasing it.18
  • Sodium depletion due to “low-sodium nutrition” has been shown to trigger overtraining-like symptoms, including hypertension and sleeping disorders.19

Salt 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 avocado 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.

FAQs About Salt

What’s a Good Sodium Intake per Day?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends you consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day.20 Your needs may change if you sweat excessively or if you have specific conditions that affect your electrolyte balance. Talk to your doctor about what makes sense for you.

Is Sodium the Same as Salt?

Salt is not pure sodium. Table salt contains around 97% sodium, and other varieties like sea salt and Himalayan pink salt may contain less.

Does Salt Have Calories?

Salt has 0 calories per serving.

How Much Sodium Is in a Teaspoon of Salt?

One teaspoon of salt contains 2325 mg of sodium.21

Symptoms of Too Much Sodium (Hypernatremia)

Symptoms of too much sodium may include:22

  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhea with markedly elevated sodium levels, if your hypernatremia is due to a loss of body fluids.

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

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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291 thoughts on “Are Salt and Sodium Bad for You?”

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  1. Dear Mark,
    What have you heard about test X180? It is a Testosterone Supplement? Is it Junk? Does it have any benefit? They say it helps your body to safely start producing more testosterone on its own? is this just another phen phen ready to go wrong?

    1. The two best, and safest, ways to produce free testosterone in males is by very intense exercise–interval training and heavy lifting–and by having sex, even solo sex. 🙂 Germans scientists found that even getting an erection produced free testoserone. So don’t feel guilty about surfing the web for porn. (But honey, it’s helping me be healthier. 😉

      1. thanks for the actual advise! I don’t think i will employ the porn – just rather be intimate with my wife – but yah lifting and sprints are common in my life (hill sprints yesterday and about to hit the gym now-

        thankx again D.M. Mitchell

        1. I think your wife would prefer that too. I recall reading on some Real Food site (maybe this one, maybe another), that zinc is very important to testosterone production. Perhaps someone here knows more about this?

      2. Sweet! Ill let my Boyfriend know. About the sex part, not the solo part 😉

        1. Add some salt.
          Kidding- as a wife of an ex-porn addict I hear ya

        2. If I were a recovering alcoholic and someone exclaimed: ” I’m stressed! Boy, do I need a glass of wine!” I would grow up. I would not call them distasteful.

          As an actual SEX addict, seriously, just deal with it.

      1. no this is not spam – yes I know how comment sections work – thank you for your passive aggressive approach

        1. I think you were a little off subject and that is how blogs work:)

        2. THen you should realize that the comment section is for commenting on the blog post above it, not a Dear Mark email. The Contact section is the appropriat place for the Dear Mark email.

          1. Geez, so many comment board dictators here. Just let the guy ask his question. What’s it to you? Get over yourselves. You don’t have to help him out with an answer. Heck, you don’t even have to pay attention to his comment. “Appropriate place?” What even is that in a comments section? It’s not like the guy was asking about the quality of Turkish rugs from China…There was nothing wrong with his original question and if you don’t agree with that, maybe you could put away the selfie stick, loose the duck lips and quit living for “likes” so that you have more time to, you know…be human.

        3. You don’t understand what “passive aggressive” means. Mark’s reply was direct and sincere, which is pretty much the opposite of passive aggressive.

          And since your “thank you” was sarcastic, you’re now the only one with a demerit.

        4. @ ossicle if you look, my comment was at Mikey not at Mark. Yes his post on salt was tasteful to use a chezzy pun

          – and to the other haters pretty sure I have been coming to MDA since 2011 and have seen many times where questions are asked and answered within the comment section- yes direct questions can be sent directly to Mark- however, maybe one of the fine readers of MDA has the leg up on this question and can provide positive feed back to my question- then you all say that’s what the forum is for… thanks everyone – please only positive answers not sarcastic i am an internet troll who only has time to degrade others whom I do not know. (yes that is passive aggressive bordering straight up aggressive- didn’t know MDA was so sacred you could ask a question without being harassed)

        5. I, too, have seen questions answered in the comments section, but those questions usually relate to the blog post, not something totally unrelated. That is why I suggested the contact section for your question.

    2. First thing I learned in culinary school was ‘food is tasteless in the absence of salt & fat’

    3. Injectable HCG increases free testosterone. In my case 1000 IU every other day almost doubled my free testosterone and strangely did not change total testosterone. I have normal total and low free testosterone due to high SHBG.

  2. Thank you, Mark! My mum and I are sick of the “salt police” staring at us when we dare to shake some salt on our food in restaurants! The laughable thing is that the people who stare at you are hardly shining beacons of health themselves.

    Obviously, as with everything, moderation is key, but I’m hardly unscrewing the top and dumping the lot on my plate! Geez.

    1. Depends on the restaurant and the food you are salting. Most restaurant food is already fairly salty, and sometimes the sodium can be hidden by additional sweet or fatty sauces. Adding additional salt may just be overkill.

      I think most of the misguided salt warnings affect the way people cook at home more than the way they eat in restaurants. People have become afraid to salt food as they cook it because of all the warnings. Properly salted food should tasty vibrant and complex without necessarily being salty. Exceptions are brined or cured foods like pickles or cured meats.

      1. I rarely order things in sauces, as most restaurants use vegetable oil to cook with; I normally just order plain meat, potatoes and veg, which I tend to enjoy more anyway, but rarely has any salt on it at all (in my experience). If I ever do order anything in a sauce, it is usually adequately seasoned, so I do not feel the need to add any salt.

        I agree about people being scared to add salt to their cooking, and being pleased when they persist and their palates change to accept less salt. Personally, I use measuring spoons only to ensure consistency of seasoning when cooking sauces or frying vegetables and have a sea salt grinder at the table to season plain meat and potatoes to taste. I probably do average about two teaspoons a day this way.

    2. Really, though, if you’re in a GOOD restuarant, you shouldn’t need salt because the chef has seasoned the food as it has been cooked, like it should be done. My sister is a chef and it drives her crazy when my uncle puts salt on his food before he even tastes it! 🙂

      1. You are absolutely right. Any chef worth his salt (heh heh) would season everything properly. However, I think that the salt scare is starting to trickle its way down into restaurants, certainly in the UK (and on my recent trip to Italy for my sister’s wedding). Even the better restaurants that I have been to tend to shy away from salt (not that I eat out very often – I’m an acting student on a budget!).

        I have a very sensitive palate, especially when it comes to salt, sugar and vegetable oil.

        Don’t worry – I always taste the food first before making up my mind whether to salt or not! No mindless shaking or grinding here. 😀

      2. People have different sensitivity to salt. But salt tends to be auto regulated to much becomes quickly distasteful.

  3. My chiropractor had a patient who was eating Paleo-style and was having blood pressure problems. The doctor told him to increase his salt intake (sea salt of course) and his BP went down. Interesting. The point is that while eating Paleo/Primal you don’t incur the amount of salt/sodium that you would on a conventional SAD diet. We’re the lucky ones that get to enjoy some sea salt on our meats and vegetables. 🙂

    1. Interesting article and very timely. I have ME (CFS) and recently attended a talk by a Dr Vallings from NZ who says that most ME sufferers need additional salt in their diets. I think this is to help cope with the post exertional malaise aspect of the condition. So perhaps my salt cravings are not so mad after all! Salt on my dinner now… always! 🙂

      1. A while ago I spent a month eating just plain vegetable soups, no meat, to see if it would kinda “detox” me after a prolonged period of stress & bad eating etc, and much as I love veg, I could only get the stuff down by adding generous amounts of salt. My BP dropped from 130/90 (give or take a few points, measured every 3rd day on a calibated home machine) to 115/75. From then on I’ve not been afraid of salt, but I try to keep my potassium levels up as well. Just my 2¢.

    2. Read “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living” by Drs. Phinney and Volek… They talk about WHY people eating primal/paleo/ketogenic diets REQUIRE more salt as their bodies become extremely efficient at flushing water and salt. They advocate using broth/boullion as a way to prevent blood pressure issues, muscle cramps, and fatigue. Excellent read.

  4. In the seventies I was conned into restricting my salt intake. It was in all the health reports: Salt will kill you. Today, I liberally salt my food. I am not on a ketogenic diet, but I do restrict my carbohydrate intake. The authors of the book, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living,” doctors, both of them, stated that the kidneys preserve salt on a high carbohydrate diet but excretes it on a low carbohydrate diet, especially a ketogenic one where your carb intake is 50 gm/day or less. They suggest adding a teaspoon of salt daily, usually in the form of bullion, or salted broth.

    As a side note, they also found out that if you boil meat a large percentage of the potassium in the meat is leached into the water. Drink the broth they say, as the bison people and other neo-lithic people knew to do.

    1. Interesting about the stock…. I make all my own soups from boiled bone stock… and now I can happily add salt to taste too. 🙂 This is one article that has really made me happy today! LOL

      1. I love making my own stock too. Better to wait until after the stock has reduced before adding salt though, otherwise it’s really difficult to determine how salty the end-product will turn out. Make the stock first, and then when you are creating a soup from that stock, salt to taste. If you’re just drinking the stock plain, you can add salt when you heat it up.

    2. That’s why it is so good to make stock from bones with meat on them for soup, you have the boiled meat broth to which you can add any vegetable. 🙂

  5. I have never really had a fear of salt and I always knew it was good for something- thank you for the article explaining perhaps why we need it. Since I don’t eat processed food, I just salt to taste but really do not feel the need to over do it.

  6. How can you talk about what salt is good for without discussing the sodium-potassium pump and its role in hydrolysis of ATP and activation of nerve cells?

    1. Yep! Seems like there could be a prob if sodium is high and potassium low since they both compete with each other. In such cases, you may see some symptom improvement if you drop sodium due to better access to potassium, but likely the better solution would be to increase potassium instead. Both are very impt. Nature did not put a salt receptor on the tongue and make you like the taste of it for no reason. As for the mortality study, it’s interesting but correlational. Those who eat the highest levels of salt likely eat a lot of processed food too. And those who eat the lowest probably have abnormal diets in other ways as well.

      1. And don’t forget Magnesium… salt, potassium, magnesium are all important electrolytes important for proper muscle function, including the heart muscle.

  7. Low sodium may lower blood pressure, but it doesn’t seem to lower the incidence of heart attacks (or anything else). Another Cochrane report (perhaps the missing ‘second’ study from your post?) found “no strong evidence that salt reduction reduced all-cause mortality” or “cardiovascular events”.

    Taylor Rod, S., Ashton Kate, E., Moxham, T., Hooper, L., & Ebrahim, S. (2011). Reduced dietary salt for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7).

    1. I know two people who almost died from sodium depletion. They both thought that if low is good then none at all must be better. Wrong. Our bodies need sodium. Too much isn’t good but not enough is even worse. Unless you’ve destroyed your taste buds with tobacco or substance abuse, they will usually let you know when something needs more or less salt.

      1. In my high school world history class a few years ago, we had to read a book called “Salt”, which was literally about the history of human salt use. It drove home the essentiality of consuming salt in a fascinating, but incredibly boring way. Prior to “modern” geology/chemistry/mining making salt abundant practically everywhere, salt distribution had geopolitical consequences. In the African kingdom of Ghana, for example, salt was worth more than gold. They had to import it from the Sahara.
        The book also goes into significant detail about salt-heavy fermented foods in various cultures.

  8. Interesting! I continue to have insulin resistance problems after more or less following Primal for 5 years. I have started using a bit more salt but I’m still doing a low sodium diet. I’ll try upping my sodium.

    1. One problem with that is that I have lost my taste for salty foods. UNsalted avocados, white potatoes and nuts taste almost too salty to me.

      1. Potassium actually tastes “salty” so I wonder if your taste buds are tasting what MAY be too much potassium for your body to handle after a long period in a sodium/salt restricted state? (I’m no doctor, for god’s sake don’t take this as gospel! 🙂 )

        Potassium is used as a salt (sodium chloride) substitute because the taste is superficially similar, and I finsd it interesting you mention avocadoes & white potatoes because they ARE high(ish) in potassium.

  9. People who don’t get enough sodium tend to be salty anyway…ok that pun didn’t work as well as I thought…I salt everything! Sometimes eating it plain followed by water can help with a mild headache. My friend claims she hates salty food (but she follows SAD) so does anyone think its because she gets too much sodium anyway so her brain is telling her to avoid excess salt?

    1. I recall when I was salt-o-phobic, anything salty would taste bad because I told myself it was bad.

  10. I salt to taste, which means I am unafraid to add salt. And still, I would wager that as much salt as I use, it’s still less than what I would consume eating processed food.

    1. I agree… I cook from raw ingredients and up until recently added little salt. I have recently become more liberal with the salt in food I cook…. and after this article my conscience is clear! (And I agree, my total salt intake could well still be less than those who rely on processed foods.)

  11. People often forget that salt or sodium is an electrolyte that our body NEEDS to help our nerves to send signals throughout the body, and it helps us to retain water which is substantial for those people that have kicked eating refined carbohydrates as those hold water like a sponge. The absence of both would ensure that we are not properly hydrated.

    1. Carbs cause swelling? My doc told me it was salt so I have been on hydrochlorothyazide for years and eating very little salt. Swelling still occurs. CW has been slowly killing me for years! I am new to this Primal world. Have lost 20 pounds. (Many more to go.)

      1. Refined carbohydrates (when not burned) typically turn into saturated fat, which is comprised of palmitic acid (an inflammatory). I don’t know enough to continue speaking on it, but the basics you learn here will solve even that problem.

        Gotta burn the bad carbs if you’re going to eat them, otherwise you’ll suffer more in the long run.

      2. Lizzie, search up the term “carb face” and you’ll see a lot of people, some low-carbers after a cheat day and some just rambling, talking about how they notice their face is more swollen after eating a lot of carbs. I notice it on my belly, and it has nothing to do with salt intake.

  12. Salt is bad because the one consumed by 98% of the people is created in the laboratory and is pure NaCl ( Sodium Chloride), which is bad. What you are talking about is Natural Salt, either Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt-which is the best salt to use.

    These Natural Salts have all the benefits that you described here.

    1. I cook with sea salt and season with fleur-de-sel, but I bet I’m eating non-sea salt in bacon etc. – do you have any links to articles or research on this?

        1. I;ve read articles saying Himalayan salt is really high in fluoride, which I for one avoid like the plague (non-flu’d toothepaste etc) so that’s something to factor in when trying to buy the “best” salt. I doubt the only healthful salt in the world could or would only come from one location, it’s hardly logical. Salt’s good and we need it whatever the source.

      1. Buy your bacon from a farmer and have it processed naturally at the meat packer. It has a wonderfully meaty flavor, not excessively salty like “store-bought” bacon. And the renderings? Mmmmm good for sautéing vegies or frying eggs… Sea salted to taste, of course.

    2. “Salt is bad because the one consumed by 98% of the people is … pure NaCl”

      No, it’s not. Iodine has been added, making it much more delicious.

      Everything’s better with iodine.

      1. And sometimes table sugar is also added. To make it “free flowing”.

    3. I, too, thought it strange that the type of salt was not addressed.

      (And there are better ways to get iodine than consuming refined table salt…)

      1. To get iodine naturally, I blend seaweed and sea salt together and use that to season my food. I think table salt has a distinct bitter taste, yuck!

    4. I read somewhere that nearly every culture on Earth consumes at least 10x the minimum amount of salt determined necessary for human health. Obviously there is much about salt they do not yet understand.

      1. Didn’t mean for my comment to end up here as a reply to the above.

    5. Table salt is certainly not created in the laboratory – it’s mostly mined from underground salt deposits, or produced by evaporating sea water. And it’s not pure NaCl (most of it in the US has added iodine, but even that which doesn’t has additives to prevent it from caking, plus it contains traces of other minerals depending on the source).

    6. Oh, please! Where in the world did you get the idea that most salt that people eat is created in a lab? That is absolutely not true. Most salt IS “sea salt.” The fancy stuff just keeps some of the “impurities” (actually additional minerals, which are probably fine but even Dead Sea salt is mostly sodium chloride.) I’ve actually visited the place where a high percentage of the world’s table salt is produced (went for the whale watching, but the salt tour was almost as interesting.)

      They produce salt by flooding an area with the naturally high-saline sea water, letting the water evaporate for a couple of years, then scooping up the pure crystals with huge bulldozers. It gets washed (oddly, it doesn’t dissolve) to remove the minor grit at the bottom (the stuff you get when you buy the more expensive salt and probably good for you) then the crystals are loaded on to barges and sent to ships off-shore. I’ve never seen so much dazzling white.

      For an industrial process it was amazingly low tech and involved no chemicals except crystalline salt and water (probably seawater, I don’t remember.). It was perfectly obvious that the only thing anyone would need to do to the stuff was grind it up and sell it. You could never compete with these guys if you had to build a lab (or even a building! The stuff just sat in the sun and rode out to see in an open barge.)

      I watched the whole thing and brought home some nice chunks of salt crystals–with grit attached. 🙂

      The extra minerals in the fancy salts are nice, but if pure NaCL really was “bad”, I don’t think they would make it “good,” especially if you get your minerals other ways.

  13. I found that when I was on a SAD diet and going through chronic high stress periods I craved salt 24/7. Once the major stressors passed, I no longer craved salt and consequently reduced my intake while still eating SAD. Now that I’ve gone primal (about 6 weeks now), I find that I’ve got a taste for salt again. Probably because I’m getting less salt with primal than I did with SAD. That said, I’ve never feared salt and have always eaten as much as pleases me.

    1. +1….on the “Good God, y’all”!!!…giggling shamelessly!…I thought of this immediately!

  14. Thanks! Another informative post.

    Again, I think the salt hype is more aimed toward the SAD – there are rediculous amounts of sodium in processed foods which are hidden with the additional sugars (surprise surprise). I think and have always felt that if you eat whole, home cooked (or not cooked) foods, that you will be hard pressed to over salt.

  15. All salt is not created equally. Once, years ago when I was limiting my sodiium intake, I was in Hawaii and we happened upon some old salt “bowls” in the lava near the ocean where the Hawaiians used to harvest salt. I harvested some myself and gobbled it up, it was so delicious. And my body seemed to respond in such a positive way.

    What salt was used in the tests? If it’s the highly processed stuff that is sold in most markets, the results cannot really be compared with me, who never consumes such stuff.

    My BP is not high (or low) since being primal, and it was high in the years I restricted salt more and more till I got down to nearly none. I was actually put on BP meds at that time!

    1. Show me an actual controlled study demonstrating a difference between so-called processed salt and so-called natural salt.

  16. Full disclosure, I deal with low blood pressure, so salt is not a health issue with me. However, as someone who thoroughly enjoys cooking and has worked in many professional kitchens I can tell you that any good chef is worth his weight in salt. Salt is the difference in making a good meal great. If I could cook with only one other ingredient, fresh herb, etc, it’d be a good coarse salt. And the added bonus-it gets my kids to eat their big carrots and broccoli.

  17. What about the association between high sodium intake and low bone density? As a woman that is my main concern with ingesting too much sodium, not to mention the bloating.

    1. Bone density can be addressed with diet. A grain/sugar based SAD depletes calcium. We actually need to consume very little calcium if we are eating a biologically appropriate diet.

      I eat only natural salt, as much as I want (which is lots). There is no bloating and no negative effects at all. Table salt? I don’t touch the stuff.

      1. There’s no molecular difference between natural salt and table salt that would account for bloating or not. If salt consumption is causing water retention, just decrease salt consumption until you are comfortable. But there could be other health or diet issues that are causing water retention. Water retention is a just natural reaction to the body trying to balance the salt concentration between your blood and your cells.

        Table salt is 97-99% NaCl, with the rest being natural trace minerals, added iodine, and trace amounts of anti-caking agents – which are in fact just other mineral salts.

        The advantage of natural salts are that they do (depending on the source) contain a marginally higher amount of trace elements than table salt and they also generally come in larger crystals, meaning it’s a little easier to regulate the amount we use. A tablespoon of sea salt crystals has less sodium than a tablespoon of fine table salt, not because of any molecular difference, but simply because there’s more air space between the larger crystals. By weight, they are virtually identical. A gram of sea salt has the same amount of sodium as a gram of table salt.

        1. Thank you. Sometimes I feel like everything that is available from the grocery store is part of the axis of evil.

    2. Weight bearing exercises, such as walking, and getting plenty of vitamin D, either via sunlight or suplimentation of D3, will help maintain/increase bone density.

      Did a quick Google search. This study shows a mild association in men, but not women.
      The study says that insuring an adequate potassium and calcium intake works better than restricting sodium when it comes to preventing bone loss
      This study shows no association with sodium intake and bone desity.
      This study does shows that you can either cut sodium or increase calcium to prevent bone loss.

    3. No bloating in the absence of starchy carbs. I’ve been grain free for 2 years and NO water retention was the first “symptom” I noticed. After a few weeks, I started to get muscle cramps in my legs… sodium depletion causes your body to “borrow” potassium from your muscles to maintain hydration. I started adding salt to everything: my water gets a sprinkle, all my food is prepared with salt, and if I feel particularly fatigued, I will drink a cup of broth morning and night for a few days. Also, with adequate magnesium levels, your bone density should actually improve. Avoid magnesium oxide supplements, though, because they have a distinct laxative effect.

      1. Ah, so that’s why my leg cramps went away with either table salt or the potassium chloride “substitute”.

  18. Thank you for the great article, salt is an essential part of our composition. I’ve recently started paying more attention to ‘hidden’ salt, in things like tomato sauce, organic chicken sausage, restaurant food, etc. and reducing it has made a huge impact on how I look and feel. I was by no means a processed food and restaurant junkie, but a few simple changes made a huge difference. I think salting your food with quality salt, and eating commercially salted foods are where the difference lies and this article really brought that home for me:

  19. I am a salt-a-holic, but also a stress ball. I mean, I live on cortisol, hence this article was enlightening for me. My blood pressures have been low my entire life, but I am also a diabetic and have that frontal apple shape so unpopular lately. (you really may not notice it, but I do) I have never had enough willpower to avoid salt. Now I won’t worry.

  20. No question that it aint worth livin’ if u can’t enjoy yr food. I do think that a Q not addressed by Mark is how the sodium level in the blood relates to BP etc. If I remember right the recommended max/min for Na is 40/36. Does this mean that within this range BP will almost certainly be ok?

  21. Although we need to limit all sodium (and potassium, and phosphorous) in food selection/preparation in our household due to a family member with chronic kidney disease, I use sea salt fairly liberally for my own consumption and do feel it helps me avoid over-consumption of the sugars which are my personal Pandora’s box. I agree with previous comments that eliminating processed foods is 90% of the battle – bread products in particular are surprisingly full of sodium. I think that the paleo diet, with its emphasis on real, unprocessed foods, proteins, healthy fats and veg, eliminates most of the excess sugar, (trans)fat, sodium, and other crap that constitute the primary dietary risk factors for poor health.

    1. I agree strongly with this. I have Meniere’s disease, which, like chronic kidney disease, genuinely requires a lower sodium diet. Bread products, pizza, processed soups, crackers and all the pre-processed dips, sauces and spreads are HUGE sources, as are all vegetarian “fake meats”. If you get those things out of your diet, it’s really relatively easy to consume <2000 mg of sodium, even with moderate consumption of stuff like cheese & olives. I typically eat around 1500mg (a little more in the summer when working out in the heat) and I have to consciously salt my food to get to that amount. It's actually easy to go too low while eating paleo.

      Meats, vegetables, nuts, fruits and unprocessed dairy products simply don't have a huge ton of sodium. Add moderate amounts of sausage or jerky, olives, saurkraut & cheeses and you have a pretty normal healthy sodium intake.

    2. And bread products are (mostly, if white) high in bromine. Not to mention gluten etcetera.

  22. I’m just wondering about babies and children – you are instructed to cook salt free when you have a little one and are told their kidneys cannot process salt. I add sea salt at the table so the little ones don’t get any but would prefer to add during the cooking process. Would that be ok?

    1. In her article on feeding babies, found on the Weston A Price website, nutritionist Jen Allbritton writes, “Don’t neglect to put a pinch of salt on the egg yolk. While many books warn against giving salt to babies, salt is actually critical for digestion as well as for brain development. Use unrefined salt to supply a variety of trace minerals.”

      Here’s the rest of the article:

      I would add that salt is critical for proper digestion, providing the chloride in hydrochloric acid, and the anti-salt movement is contributing to the spike in digestive disorders in babies and children. And adding fluoride to drinking water combined with removing salt from the diet is a double whammy for the development of the brain.

      Of course, we should avoid chemicalized table salt and use only mineral-rich sea salt or Himalayan salt.

      1. I should add that fluoridated water, removing salt from the diet, and removing cholesterol from the diet is a TRIPLE WHAMMY for the developing brains of babies and children.

  23. My “traditional” doctor told me that salt was only bad for people with heart conditions, and to consume to whatever my taste preference was. How liberating!! My naturopath who helped me transition to primal with a fairly restricted diet first, shared this gem with me: consume salt to your taste/preference. However, you do need enough water to process the salt you consume. She suggested that regardless of what I consumed, to maintain roughly the same amount of salt and water consistently across days to reduce irrelevant weight fluctuations on the scale. For those of you concerned with that, I found that she was spot on!

  24. The only thing I fear is sugar… I’m not afraid of salt and neither of fat. I follow Mark’s advice, except for lentils which may not be primal food, but is nonetheless good for you. I use salt liberally, to taste, but my salt is unbleached, unprocessed (it’s not even white!) and million of years old. It does not come from the sea, but is mined in the desert of Utah. It’s aptly called “Real Salt”. You may want to check it out (it’s cholesterol free and fat free, if you buy into that nonsense).

    1. I use this as well. It also has more than 60 naturally occurring trace minerals. I think it has a pink hue.

  25. Interesting piece Mark. Ive been on a low salt diet for years for an inner ear problem in which restricting my sodium intake should control the inner ear pressure that can get a bit out of whack. The jury is still out on it for me, but I persist with it in the hope that its helping. I also went primal a few months ago to see whether that would help my condition, so far so good, but its early days yet and Im going to wait a while time before I say primal is def helping that issue. It sure helps other things! But coming back to the salt issue, maybe Ill up the salt intake a bit and see what happens. I train a lot, in various sports so hopefully Ill recover better. Thanks.

    1. You have been doing it for years and the jury is still out? Something is amiss there!

    2. I have Meniere’s which is probably very similar to what you have. The jury is in for me… a low salt diet (and eliminating 100% artificial sweeteners) keeps me off meds 95% of the time. The medications to me are far worse than the possible consequences of a lower sodium diet. I’ve been using a lower sodium paleo approach for a couple of years now and it’s greatly cut my vertigo attacks.

      That being said… different people respond differently, and not all Meniere’s sufferers seem to respond as well as me to a lower salt diet. Some are affected by gluten or by food additives, some people might be able to improve stuff with their diet but still need meds. It’s tricky to sort out. I’ve been able to up my sodium once I figured out the artificial sweetener thing… it’s definitely a balancing act.

      1. Vertigo type symptoms are what i have, and really starting to bother me. Think mine related to allergies, but the ear feels infected, though it is not. Maybe just histamine stuff going on from allergies. Was trying lots of salmon omega 3 oils and getting the omega 3/6 ratio in check, not sure if that was working. Still searchin’ !!

        1. See, for me the vertigo attacks are not something that “bothers” me, it’s something where I can’t stand, can barely crawl across the room and it’s accompanied by uncontrollable vomiting for hours on end. We’re talking ER visit, IV drip of anti-emetics kind of thing. If a moderate reduction in my salt intake can avoid those symptoms most of the time, then insulin & cortisol be damned, I’m going to reduce my salt.

          Yours sounds like less of an easy answer. If it’s just been a few weeks or months, it might be allergies, or sinusitis. Have you tried antihistamines?

        2. I had vertigo 2 springs in a row a few years back. The room would spin and I would be so ill I couldn’t move. Any head movement would make me vomit. At first I thought I had seasonal allergies, then figured out it was the sunless tanning lotion I was putting on to get my ever -so -white legs ready for summer.

          Just wondering if other folks with vertigo might be bothered by chemicals.

          Hibiscus in tea and long exposure to blue window cleaner give me migraines. Also most hand sanitizers cause a dull headache and feeling of too much saliva production in my mouth. Weird! Following a diesel vehicle down the road makes my ears plug up and hurt.
          So all this makes me wonder about plastics and foams in mattresses & car seats & all the other chemicals we encounter…..

          At 54 I thought that my arthritis aches and pains were inevitable. When I quit sugar and grains I was 100% pain-free in 5 days!

    3. John.
      I too have an inner ear problem, always seems infected, closed up. Getting a lot of dizziness now too, suspect balance.
      ENT says nothing wrong, figures ! But my salt intake has always been low, pretty positive of that. Trying more now, will see if there is any improvement with ear.

      1. A few years ago something similar happened to me (I was 39 at the time). Constant pressure in one ear, hearing loss, tinnitis. I went to a specialist and the best they could come up with was idiopathic sensori-neural hearing loss. The idiopathic part just means that they don’t know what caused it or how to fix it. They thought maybe it was viral, so they put me on a round of anti-virals and steroids for a while with no results. That was followed by a month of going to the hospital 3 times a week for a 2-hour histamine drip. The symptoms would lessen during the drip, but would return after the histamines cleared my body. They were convinced for a while that I had Meniere’s and tried to talk me into being convinced that I had dizziness and balance issues, but I didn’t so they eventually dropped that theory. They never did come up with any long-term treatment or even a recommendation for a hearing aid, so now I’m half-deaf in one ear with near constant ringing. I do find that good sleep and moderation of salt, sugar, and alcohol reduce the symptoms, but they’re always there.

        1. To answer Mark’s question about salt. I once hated and feared salt.
          I found out about Mark through my doctor who told me to eat mostly meat and vegetables. I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER!
          with the low carb diet I now enjoy salt much more. It tastes different to me now. I do notice a HUGE reduction in water retention, puffiness and arthritis when I am avoiding refined sugar. my blood pressure has gone from 130’s/ 80’s to 112/ 60. I am 54, female and still 70 lb overweight. Eating more salt than I ever have. Very slight increase in activity may have helped B/P drop also?

        2. Mantonat – I just came across your comment on Mark’s blog regarding your ear issue. I have the SAME EXACT thing. My ENT told me yesterday that he thinks I have Meniere’s, even though I have no symptoms of dizziness or vertigo. I was just curious, have you found anything since this post that has worked for you? I absolutely hate this feeling in my ear and the hearing loss. I’ve had it for about a month and I can’t bare the thought of having it forever. I greatly appreciate any insight!

  26. I found out I had adrenal fatigue 3 or 4 years ago, and one of the protocols my Dr. put me on was sea salt or Himalayan salted water. He said there was something about salt disolved in water that was very good for the adrenals. It got rid of the swelling in my legs, too. I’m to the point that I don’t like to drink anything sweet anymore…just give me some icy cold salt water!

  27. I’m so happy to read this because I love salt, especially since I discovered sea salt! I’m curious, though: why do so many of the Primal recipes not include an amount for salt? Usually it’s “salt to taste” or it’s left out altogether. I have to refer to my Joy of Cooking book to know how much salt to add. Some of the recipes were too bland for me with no salt.

    1. I would guess that this is a case of “listen to your body”. In my experience, if I have been eating very little sodium but lots of veggies then even straight salt tastes good. As in, pour a half teaspoon in my hand, eat it, repeat once or twice. Then the salt stops tasting good. Also, when adding salt to food, the amount needed for “to taste” is inversely related to the amount I’ve had in the last day or two. As others in the comments have surmised, I think that salting to taste is a good way to get the amount that your body needs.

  28. Don’t dismiss salting your fruit!

    I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas during the ’50’s. We always salted our grapefruit and melons. It made these fruits even more flavorful. And of course, it helped us conserve our fluids in that hot, dry and windy weather.

    As I moved around the country later in life, I would still salt my cantaloupe to the odd stare or the comment – what are you doing? My mouth is now watering so I better go salt a piece of cantaloupe in the frig to conserve my fluids. It’s so fun to eat flavorful foods to improve your health!

    1. Even better, in Mexico they not only salt fruit, but add hot chili pepper spices. It’s to die for.

    2. You won’t get weird stares from me. My mother always salted her cantaloupe,

  29. It always baffles me how people of science can latch onto salt (and its osmotic qualities) without considering that sugar has virtually the same osmotic qualities. The Kuna of Panama probably eat not sugar and few high density carbohydrates. Sugar is much more likely to be the culprit in high blood pressure than salt which is clearly necessary for life, while sugars are not.

    1. It’s the “You’ll pry the bread and sugar from my cold dead hands” bias in medicine.

      1. True. There’s also the biblical connection to wheat. If ever there was a sacred cow, it’s wheat. Never mind the fact that the Staff of Life as we know it is something entirely different and will probably make you fat, sick, and eventually kill you.

  30. When I was a kid… in the 1970’s and 1980’s I remember my grandfather taking “salt” tablets during the summer months to keep from having a heat stroke.

    I never understood why anyone would take a salt tablet back then but it makes perfect sense now.

    Grandad worked out in the heat doing construction and farm work. He would sweat a LOT. And guess what is the largest amount of nutrients lost through perspiration? Soudium and Potassium.

    Isn’t it strange how the wisdom of our ancestors gets nullified by some knucklehead who thinks his degree is superior to practical experience? Turns out that things do not always work the way we thought.

    1. When I was a kid in S Texas in the early 80’s, they would give us salt pills at football practices (I once chewed on one on a dare, so have a VERY strong memory of this). I wonder if the deaths from heat stroke in football practices in recent years can be attributable (at least in part) to this being discontinued.

      1. to the two above posts,
        summer of 1956, Lackland AFB, Texas,TWO salt tablets with EVERY meal.

  31. I LOVE salt. I eat unprocessed pink salt or sea salt as much as I want, no limit. However, I didn’t see anywhere in the article where type of salt is mentioned. Natural salt should be differentiated from refined table salt and the salt that is used in processed foods. I think the form of one’s salt DOES matter. I agree that it’s ridiculous how salt has been demonized and there are many historic societies that consumed a lot of salt with no detriment to health. Basically, if we want to be healthy, we should just do the opposite of almost everything we are told, at least in regards to food.

  32. The problem is that most people get their sodium through fast and processed food. Eliminate that crap, and salt your real food to your heart’s content.

  33. I’m lucky. My doctor tells me to pay attention to my body and if it wants salt, give it salt! I have lowish BP so it’s of particular concern to me as I hate fainting in public. After grueling tennis matches, I’ve been known to drink pickle juice until sated and wake up in the morning ready to go again! and I, too, LOVE salt on my melon! Delicious!

  34. Salt contributing to high blood pressure is a side-effect of insulin being elevated, since insulin signals the kidneys to retain sodium. So people going around with chronically high insulin, as you see in people with metabolic syndrome (fat or not), will respond to salt in that way, but the salt isn’t the underlying problem.

    (This is also true of African-Americans. Black people are more likely to be insulin-resistant than the white population, thus more likely to have hyperinsulinism, and this at least partially explains why they also get high BP and kidney damage more than white people do. No one’s telling them to cut the carbs… that message needs to get out there.)

    Known science. Has been known for years. Is consistently ignored by medical providers–and a lot of health bloggers too. Lay off the “safe starches” and the “natural sugars” for a while and see what happens.

    It’s not uncommon for low-carbers to get muscle cramps, especially if they are in a VLC phase of 20g a day or so. It’s been suggested all along that they were lacking potassium, but the real lack might be in sodium, as the body will not hold on to excess sodium in the absence of elevated insulin, and one’s sodium needs change often even when the levels are properly maintained. Potassium is in so many foods that it’s a bit difficult to not get enough. One source that almost no one discusses is MEAT… even if you were on a zero-carb diet you would still get it.

  35. I think it is important to eat the correct type of salt; not the processed denatured white table salt that has been stripped of all the trace minerals. We should choose Himalayan salt, Celtic sea salt, or Real salt from Utah. These are in the raw state with trace minerals intact.

  36. Mark,

    Having been diagnosed and treated for several decades with a “genetic” case of hypertension, I have watched my life-long Doctor vacillate between the various “studies” (via Big Pharma) indicating just what is “normal blood pressure.” This also ties into salt in take –
    SImply, if one does not eat a “commercial” diet and uses Sea Salt, then this is overall the best course of action. THe only risk to this would be not possibly getting enough iodine. However, since many restaurants don’t have sea salt yet, a little common table salt a couple of times a week should suffice…

    Love you program and poots…
    Yogi Greg

  37. Since losing almost 70 pounds with low carb/Primal eating, I have “perfect” blood pressure… that’s what the PA says every time. It has been flirting with “borderline high.” Even though I salt more than ever; though I don’t eat anything processed.

    I was so stunned by how good sea salt tasted I went for the pink stuff… even better! I’ve run across accounts where people describe bloating and headache issues which go away when they use the kind of salt with the trace minerals in it.

    Works for me.

  38. When I came down with a mysterious illness doctors couldn not figure out almost 6 years ago, I modified my diet. Part of this modification was eliminating high sodium foods and adding much salt to food. When I finally got a diagnosis (POTS), I found out I actually need double the amount of sodium the average person needs. Reducing my sodium was one of the worst things I could have done! It was difficult at first to get out of the low sodium mindset.

  39. I use some sea salt and Celtic salt and even take a few drops twice a day of a “dead sea mineral beds” supplement that includes sodium. Dumping refined, nutrient-stripped table salt onto your food … no, not something I’d recommend.

  40. I was wondering whether there is a need (or benefit) to supplement potassium in the diet? And does upping one’s sodium intake make the balance with potassium a concern? It appears potassium supplements are restricted to a rather tiny % of RDI, by regulation. On the other hand, a product like “Lite Salt” has closer to a 50/50 sodium/potassium ratio. But I wonder about the safety of using this product to that end.

  41. I agree with the sodium-potassium pump comments, not just for their role in the heart muscle, but in all our cells.

    As for the impossibility of balancing sodium/potassium, I have no problem; I live in France and use a salt product called “LoSalt” that is 2/3 potassium chloride and 1/3 sodium chloride. Since I’ve been using it I’ve been able to stop taking high blood pressure medication AND I have less difficulty with swollen ankles.

    The article you cite states that “Feasibility studies should precede or accompany the issuing of dietary guidelines to the public” – TRUE, but have they looked at Finland? I’ve read that they made potassium salt mandatory and had a huge reduction in cardiac problems and stroke incidence.

    1. When I began eating avocados regularly, my cholesterol and blood pressure dropped to normal. I started because of the insoluble fiber factor, but now I wonder if it has something to do with potassium.

      I’m not at all afraid of salt, but I find my taste buds don’t need as much to enjoy my food. My guys complain I don’t salt enough for their processed food-trained taste. I hand them the salt shaker. 🙂

  42. Yes! I knew it! I am one of the hold-outs of my generation (60 years old) who is still cooking with salt. Even my mother who taught me how to cook doesn’t use it much anymore, nor does my daughter (in her early 30s). But to my taste (and to the taste of numerous hockey billets over 10 years), salt is what makes it better! My blood pressure is the lowest in my entire family (at a healthy point, not too low)… glad to be exonerated – thank you!

  43. Great article, Mark. Now I can have some legitamate arguments for the no salt advocates. One thing, however. You suggest using sory on broccoli to make it more palatable for kids. I was clearly under the impression that soy, as well as corn and grains were a no no among us primal/paleo folks.

    1. Soy SAUCE (I mean as opposed to solid soy like tofu) is a fermented and traditional product, I avoid it myself except very rare occasions, but it’s in a “less bad” category.

    2. Most soy sauce contains gluten, which makes it a no-no for those who must be completely gluten-free. I don’t have celiac disease, but like many people, I feel better when I don’t eat grain products. That said, I don’t make total avoidance my life’s work either. I don’t eat breads, pasta, or cereal, but it doesn’t bother me physically or mentally if the au jus on my roast beef contains a bit of soy sauce. It all depends on one’s sensitivity level.

  44. Salt helps people retain water – but that’s not always good. So many people live with inflammation and don’t even know it. Add fluid retention and you have a whole host of possible ailments doctors can’t pinpoint. After much research, I found that humans only need between 80 mg and 500 mg of sodium per day, depending on your size. My diet for the past seven years has included 500 mg or less of sodium a day, and my sodium levels are fine. I never did have high blood pressure. My issue is immune related inflammation. MANY people have issues stemming from this, but it’s very hard to diagnose. I have severe vertigo attacks that can last two days if l eat much over 750 mg. So before you say it’s not bad, know that it is for many people. And it may not affect you now, but it can with a vengeance. Why take the chance? Especially with your children??

    1. You say humans only need 80mg to 500 mg a day? Please share some of those studies you say you found….

    2. I have never seen any type of study that has shown that. Can you give links?

      I would suggest that you should have that checked. Severe vertigo from small amounts of salt is very unusual. You might have an inner ear disease- there are actually posts upthread from 2 people who have that, and talk about how their sodium restriction helps their vertigo.

      It is NOT NORMAL for people to need to restrict sodium like that. Most people, including children, actually will do better with more sodium than that. It’s quite healthy for the vast majority of people to consume sodium to taste. I do believe everyone should use more natural forms of salt rather than iodized morton’s, but that’s pretty much the only issue with it.

    3. Several People commented about their Menieres disease which caused them terrible vertigo if they consumed too much salt for them. Sounds like you have that. You may want to talk to a doctor about it.

  45. Very good article. Thanks, Mark.

    I knew a man who lived to be 98 years old, and was active until the day he died. He went to sleep and never woke up… a passing that I think we all would favor when considering the alternatives!

    He didn’t follow any diet strict diet. He did avoid candy and sweets, didn’t drink much milk… things like that. His diet was “Everything in moderation.”

    It was wonderful knowing this man. He was a happy fellow and a living history book. The stories this man could tell…

    The “common knowledge” about eating is all wrong. I went paleo and lost 60 pounds. My family told me “you’re going to have high cholesterol levels eating all that meat! My levels went DOWN, still a bit borderline high according to the current medical “standard.”

    I don’t think a little salt is going to hurt or kill anyone.

    Let’s all face the facts my friends. We are all going to pass from this existence sometime, no matter what happens. The goal is to make it a happy life which includes enjoying a good meal!

  46. When making salt water to drink, just how much salt per cup is advisable?


  47. Do you suggest, then, sea salt water instead of a commercial electrolyte-replenishing sport drink?

    If so, how much salt per volume of water?

  48. Just an FYI. The ADA is now called AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

    1. Fabulous. Now if someone could actual get them to actually dust off some biochemistry and anthropology books before unleashing their ideas on the general public, we’d be all set. 😉

  49. I love my salt and have used it all my life. But I am more aware of how much it’s used and try to substitute other herbs and spices whenever possible because there’s so much salt already in the foods we buy from the grocery stores. Been reading a book called ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat ; How The Food Giants Hooked Us’ which explains the prolific amounts of salt we consume due to processing. Large corporations like Nestle, General Foods, Campbell’s, and pretty much all of the big companies rely on salt for shelf life for their products. So without eating any salt from my shaker, I am getting anywhere from 1500 to 3000 mg’s daily. I won’t completely stop using it because as you mention in the article, I love what it does for flavour enhancement. But I will be vigilant about how much I am consuming. I know the Primal diet promotes natural foods but we still end up eating some processed foods too.

  50. I think this may be why I used to yo-yo between primal and fast food so much. I would eat primal and feel low energy (not just low carb flu as I mean after even a month on primal), I would then have a fast food meal and feel a lot better – most likely it was the boost in salt intake.

    I say this because later on I was working out 5-6 days a week and my energy levels started dragging more again. I started to take salt tabs and I got a near immediate boost (within a day or so) in energy levels. I sweat a lot, so I think my tendency to lose electrolytes like salt is greater then some.

  51. I’m a fan of sea salt, Himalayan sea salt, celtic sea salt, etc. It’s better in my book than added sodium found in the Standard American Diet in processed foods- that’s a whole other story. I agree with the hydration component of salt, I’m a very active individual, so I pay special attention to salt intake as well. Not to mention, it simply makes good food taste even better!


  52. I don’t know much about salt, except that too much is bad and too little is bad too! I think it also has a lot to do w/ the quality. For example I don’t eat processed or fast foods, and I salt my own food to taste, sometimes too heavy handed w/ the salt! But I use celtic sea salt or himalayan pink salt always. And I don’t have any health problems, other than chrons which is now manageable, that I know of.

  53. If you’re on a ketogenic diet (I am) salt has an important role to play in keeping blood pressure at a good level as your kidneys remove more salt than they did before. In fact, on some days, especially very hot days, I must have some broth to make sure I have enough sodium. Especially in the early days of a ketogenic diet, failure to get enough salt can lead to ligh-theadedness, especially if you work out. I also take a multivitamin for good measure. I happen to enjoy a modest amount of salt on food, and since I have such a small amount of carb each day, it’s not a problem at all.

    1. Bingo! This happened to me several times after inadvertently going under 150 grams of carbs per day. My blood pressure dropped and started getting light headed. I have a home BP monitor (my pulse was also 49 BPM!) I ate SAD for a couple of days after that. Trying to get back on the PB wagon after falling not too far off

      There is a sweet spot for salt consumption, and it changes with the volume of sweat you produce. For example, after about 3 weeks of increased sweating the body will actually reduce the amount of sodium in sweat, so optimal salt consumption is a moving target.Getting rid of other variables (like the effects of refined carbs) helps us get closer.

      More info and experience from the crowd please. Shriba’s comment and Mark’s article are just as valuable.


      1. The communion wafer turns into flesh, so is therefore primal-compliant. 🙂

  55. The Army used to issue salt tablets in tropical areas, the hydration thing I guess. They still include salt packs in the MRE’s although there is plenty of sodium in the food already. Jus’ sayin’

  56. Are they comparing iodized salt or sea salt? Is there a difference?

  57. Thanks for a great article Mark. What about carbohydrate consumption and blood pressure? My experience so far has been that carbohydrates have a far greater effect on blood pressure than salt, yet we never hear about it in the mainstream media. It’s unfortunate that we always focus on salt as the “white stuff to avoid” when sugar/grains seem to be the actual culprits.

  58. Great article Mark! Thanks for all your research.

    There are so many myths to dispel from the ‘experts’. They have people living in fear for every bite, only to find out they are throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Another point for moderation being the key to good health.

  59. As a senior with low blood pressure and no health problems & no doctor prescribed medications, I call salt my “upper,” as I continue to enjoy it. I also “self-medicate” by contra dancing once a week vigorously, and walk briskly daily. Mark, I am off grains, thanks to your book, and almost off dairy. I indulge occasionally, and I do have Bailey’s Irish Cream in my coffee daily. After all, I tried many food trips since 1973, including 7 years vegan and declare that I am a moderatarian now.

  60. I eat a TON of salt. If I could, I would have a salt lick in my house and lick it every time I walk by… Oh wait, I totally can do this! Ha! Funnily enough, with my massive salt consumption, I have VERY LOW blood pressure. I think this is due to the fact that I do not eat packaged foods that contain a lot of added sodium… And I also think it’s due to the fact that I exercise a lot.

    Thanks Mark for giving salt a healthy halo! Makes me feel even better that I have a salt-tooth! 😉

  61. And what about the link between sodium and cancer risk? Some studies seems to show a connection between sodium and .cancer. Expecially gastric cancer. Some other shows an inverse correlation between cancer and potassium.

  62. I use a lot of salt but its whole salt not some that has had every thing extracted from it. Problems started when they started taking magnesium and other things out. If it is pure white its the wrong salt. Sea salt and other like Redmond salt are whole and have specs of color in them.

  63. I have just begun this lifestyle eating change and have a question about the salt intake. Although my blood pressure is fine, I find that when I eat anything salty at all, I retain a serious amount of fluid to the point the doctor has prescribed hydrochlorothiazide daily. This seems to run genetically in my family. Any advise on sodium limits for this?

    1. You may not be getting enough salt. When your salt intake is too low, your body will try to retain as much as possible.

      1. In support of alisonK’s post, water retention is also something that happens when people restrict fluids, again your body hangs on to what it can get.

  64. I have always been a salt freak. Absolutely love it! When I was a kid, my favorite snack was a Lemon saturated with salt. I would continuously pour the salt on the Lemon until I had consumed the whole thing. As far as I know the only bad side effect was a rash I attributed to the acidity of all of those Lemons. I’m 56 now and I still indulge in this snack on occasion.

  65. Raised on a cattle station in the 50s eating salt beef, and self salting steak to taste. My father commented once that I ate like a puppy dog….no bread. As long as my BP’s been measured, it’s been low and Im sure the salt is important in keeping me vertical! White salt hasn’t been seen in this household for several years. I do drop a sheet of seaweed into the bone broth as it’s cooking. Also like salt on grapefruit (and pepper on berries 🙂

  66. The accredited salt police keep themselves busy yelling at us not to exceed X number of milligrams of sodium, yet they remain silent on the potassium side of the argument.

    The PDR for Herbs & Supplements (2011 edition, page 590) says that adults need as much as 4.7 grams/day, and lactating females as much as 5.1 grams/day.

    Imagine how much sodium from the SAD diet would be offset with this much potassium? But are we told about potassium from our doctors or the Salt Police? No–we’re just sold a bottle of pills from Big Pharma for hypertension and told to go home until they run out.

    Sure, some may pay passing lip service to the Dash Diet, but in some cases, the Dash Diet isn’t enough. Chances are if people are low n potassium, they’re also low in other important minerals, but doctors are too busy and not paid enough to test, so it’s Band-Aid time with hypertension pills.

  67. I find i have bouts of muscle spasms. I recently tried upping my salt intake, and pretty sure things are better. I use no added salt anywhere, usually, and eat very strictly as far as unprocessed foods. I will now try a little more salt and see if my sleeping patterns also improve, and keep an eye on stress and the other things Mark mentioned. Thanx again Mark, great stuff here !!

  68. I agree with all of that, except the fact that you fail to discuss the different types of salt. I would not recommend someone to load up on iodized table salt – it is harmful. What people really need to be eating is a good quality sea salt that is rich in trace minerals and not just sodium. That way, your body gets more of what it needs and knows exactly what to do with it. Isolating sodium and piling it into the body is not a healthy thing to do. Iodized table salt is poison. A good quality grey or pink sea salt is highly nutritious.

  69. So all of this seems reasonable. Is it the difference between sea salt versus table salt and the sodium content of processed foods?

    Since having a cadiac catheterization and being diagnosed with a lower-than-normal cardiac pumping capacity about 6 months ago, they scared the crap out of me about salt and I have been generally avoiding it like the plague.

    Is the point that processed salt is bad, but natural salt like sea salt on real foods like meats and vegetables is OK?

  70. my favorite stress snack is a cup of bone broth with a spoonful of coconut oil and a sprinkle of celtic sea salt. I actually crave it!

  71. Mark,

    I haven’t had the chance to look into those studies, but those people who lower salt intake for the study may have done so my also altering nutrient intake of other foods, such that the effects of lowering salt intake could be confounded by those other changes in intake.

    However, a decrease as small as you listed by lowering salt intake is minimal at best. We know that losing body fat lowers blood pressure much more than just lowering salt intake.

    For those with congestive heart failure, an exacerbation of symptoms could possibly be related to a food holiday with higher salt intake, but we both know that the salt intake is the least of those peoples’ problems.

    A refreshing look at salt though. Thanks.


  72. I don’t usually cook with salt because I just leave it up to us to salt to taste afterward. I find that I like a lot more salt than my husband, and I just let myself have at it. We have our sea salt in a grinder, and it tastes sooooo awesome on everything!

  73. One of my favorite snacks is half an avocado with salt sprinkled on the top. It’s super tasty, mostly satisfying (I usually want another one when I’m done with it), and good for you!

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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?

  77. “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.

  78. 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.

  79. 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.

  80. Salt is good. As long as people recognize that sea salt is thumbs up and iodized table salt is a thumbs down.

  81. 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.

    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.

    1. 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.


  82. 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!!!

  83. 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.

  84. 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!!!!!!!!!

  85. “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.

    1. “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.

      1. “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.

      2. I always thought tribal pertained to hunter-gatherers, but I guess I was wrong. I meant hunter and gatherers, then, not tribal.

  86. 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.

  87. 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

  88. 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.

  89. 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

  90. 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.

  91. 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.

  92. 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

  93. 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!

  94. 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.

  95. 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:

    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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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.

  100. 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?

    1. “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.

      1. 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.

  101. 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!

  102. 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.

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

    1. The Salt Institute was a wonderfully biased place to get information on salt. It was entirely funded by the salt industry. However, it closed its doors in 2019.

  106. 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.

  107. 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 🙂

    1. 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.

    2. The chloride is also critical for digestion, providing the chloride in hydrochloric acid which breaks down foods in our stomach.

  108. 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

  109. I do not add salt to anything and I find it tastes just fine. However I am sure my ancestors spent a lot of time by the sea fishing for crabs and fish and eating healthy seaweed and I bet there was an awful lot of sale as those products came out of salt water.

    Also historically some cultures used salt like Gold, of huge value to trade etc and deer seek out salt licks in forests. However I suppose sugar was also a kind of Gold to trade so that does not necessarily mean it was good for us.

    I do eat bacon every day so that will be full of salt anyway. I am sure I get more than enough but I just don’t want to add it to any food. Works for me.

    1. Sugar was incredibly good for us back when starvation was an ever-present threat. Calories matter more to a person on the brink of stavation than anything else, so sugar was gold – we’re just living in a very rich era right now. 🙂

      1. That’s true. The history of salt is quite interesting – The expression “worth your salt” from Romans paid in salt etc.

        It sounds like it was valuable as it enabled preservation of food so removed some of the need to find food every day. Seems like it was also used in war.
        I wonder if it’s value came about because of preservative qualities though or because people knew they would die without it even if they gathered their food every day with no salt added.

  110. I don’t know, I’m still not convinced that salt, isn’t as bad as is presented.
    I eat a low amount of salt (about half teaspoon, sometimes a teaspoon a day) and I have good blood pressure (about 120/80, which is great actually).

    1. With respect, mine’s lower and I eat far more salt than that, though of course maybe the amount you eat is right for you – one thing the primal/low carb community generally find is that dietary tweaks that are ideal for one person are bad for another, and this is what places us often at odds with over-arching government advice that everyone should be eating 11 portions of starches a day etc. 🙂

  111. Let’s not fail to mention that the table salt you buy at the grocery and REAL salt differ greatly. Table salt is almost entirely sodium (and iodine), processed to remove nearly everything except sodium, but real sea salt contains a myriad of minerals (at least 60 trace minerals) needed for a healthy system. Many people would do well to simply switch to Celtic or Himalayan sea salt (actual sea salt, not the processed stuff in the store labeled sea salt that is the exact same stuff in the other containers) which cuts down the sodium and brings their minerals into balance. The point being that salt has its place, but just like everything else we have turned something beneficial into something harmful.

  112. Great post. I couldn’t agree more.

    I also think any future edits of the Primal Blueprint food pyramid should have salt at the very top of it.

  113. My family has been one to blame salt for many ills. However, I did at least introduce the idea that maybe salt (sodium chloride) isn’t so much to blame as some of the other sodium compounds; namely sodium benzoate, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sodium erythorbate, to name a few. For overall flavor, I like sea salt the best. I’ve messed myself up with bad eating habits for 46 years and the pounds simply will not come off and stay off without a fight. I have found that I feel the best when I eat the Weston A. Price diet minus the grains and legumes; with a possible exception of sprouted brown rice on the 80/20 principle. And while the pounds are slow to come off, at least my dental checkups are good and the cavities on my wisdom teeth have healed. I think the name for this way-of-eating is Paleo 2.0 or the Optimal Paleo Diet (Primal?).

  114. Wow, who knew!? As an athlete competing in CrossFit I realize my salt levels are NOT where they should be. Does 4000 mg apply to those less active? Say, with office jobs and little to no exercising?


  115. Also, I’ve heard that harvested vs. processed salt is the way to go. Like sea salt or himilayan vs. table salt. Thoughts anyone?

  116. What happened with me is at one point I had a pretty clean diet and I wasn’t using any salt. When my regular old western doctor did some blood work on me it came back showing a slight deficiency and he recommended I start using more salt…
    So now I salt to taste and I still don’t need that much.

  117. I wonder if this is the reason I occasionally have the desire to drink soy sauce.

    I know, worchestershire sauce or sea salt is the proper response.

    But I’m a real-foodie who doesn’t react well to a full paleo diet and I don’t add salt to anything, I just get what is in the meat.

  118. Interesting article. When doing a lot of long distance you loose a lot of salt and need to put it back. I was wondering, since salt is a mineral we have to mine from the earth; how would our ancestors have gotten enough salt? Where would it come from?

  119. Hahaha… i would be more worried about sugar than salt!
    Diabetes is far more serious than CV diseases caused by salt.

  120. I hope extra salt is good for health or at least not detrimental. Recently someone gave me over a pound of sea salt so I’ve been using excessive amounts.
    It seems to make me feel better… with the hot weather and some sweating I think extra salt is justified.

  121. Deark mark,

    what about fluid retaining and sodium…
    My cardiologist had me on a max 2000mg sodium intake per day for the last 10 years. He did that to limit the water retaining in my body as my heart isn’t strong enough to get rid of it on it’s own.
    My new doctor is quite shocked by my only average of 800mg of sodium a day and if your research is correct than he had all the right to be shocked.
    However your article with the exception of fluids and sports is mainly based on blood presure and cardio-vascular issues.
    What is the link between fluid-retention and eating sodium?

  122. I have always had low blood pressure. I once was convinced I needed to go low sodium for my health b/c heart disease runs in my family. I started getting leg cramps and feeling faint. I have discovered if I don’t eat enough salt my blood pressure goes too low and I am liable to faint and get leg cramps. So now I make sure I salt my food to taste so I don’t start to feel faint and have an accident. I think a blanket statement that everyone should be on a low sodium diet does a disservice to people like me who have low blood pressure. From your article we all should have a moderate sodium intake and eat our fruits and vegetable to increase our potassium and overall health! Balance in everything! Thanks for posting!

  123. Salt is definitely good for me. I used to have two problems that have been cured by increasing my salt intake. First, I used to get dehydrated, a couple of times severely so. I finally figured out the reason: I didn’t get thirsty. I had bought into the “reduced sodium” baloney and was eating very little salt. The other problem was PVCs, Premature Ventricular Contractions, that caused my heart to skip beats, approximately one every twelve or so. I increased my salt intake because of the first problem, and lo and behold, both problems disappeared! I had been told by a doctor that I would have the PVCs the rest of my life. I am now 80 and in pretty good health. If anything, my blood pressure is lower than when I was reducing my salt. Last time it was checked, it was 125/68. I do take blood pressure medication. If I would lose fifty or sixty pounds, I could probably do away with that, as I weigh about 265, and am about 6′ 4″ tall.

  124. Don’t we get enough salt from natural, primal foods? It seems a bit suspect that we have to put additional salt into our diet. What other animal has to do this?

  125. I read a lot about the benefits of salt and started taking about half a teaspoon of sea salt with warm water and lemon first thing in the morning. Then I read that salt is the one thing you should avoid if you have eczema which I do. So I stopped taking it in a hurry. That was about a week ago, I know it is not long but haven´t noticed my eczema improving. Please can you advise. Thanks

  126. a pinch of mineral salt in my water post-workout plus a squeeze of lemon juice saves me every time. So much better than Gatorade

  127. A few weeks ago I decided to eat as much salt as I wanted. I now have my old energy levels back and am losing weight. I am also finding life less stressful, but, best of all, my joints are no longer stiff and painful.I have noticed various other benefits too. I have always had low blood pressure and I’m now wondering if I have been making matters worse for years by reducing my salt intake I’m so cross about this. I feel I want to sue those responsible for telling me salt was a bad thing.

  128. I would like to know whether hypertension could be related to the ingestion of high amounts of sodium that have anions from manmade additives such as benzoate, erythorbate, metabisulfite, tripolyphosphate, nitrate, nitrite etc.that are introduced in foods in the form of artificial color, artificial flavor, and preservatives. Salt is one atom of sodium and one atom of chloride. My understanding is that the kidney functions best with KCL and NaCl. Those people you describe are smart enough to eat natural foods rather than the ones I mention. No body has looked at the effect of the sodium compounds that I mentioned as a cause of hypertension. Often

  129. Salt gets a bad rap due to “blood pressure”, however the problem with talking about “blood pressure” is that different people can have very different blood pressures and still all be very healthy with no problems at all.

    It’s an overused indicator because the blood pressure that is actually healthy and normal for one person can be very different from that of another. Your body *adapts* to maintain the blood pressure that *it* deems to be necessary — not necessarily what the media says “the pressure must be”.

    With regards to salt, a very key purpose of sodium & chloride is to maintain the appropriate blood volume. Sure, you can say less salt = less blood volume and less “blood pressure”. But isn’t the problem here obvious? You *need* a good blood volume to ensure that you have enough nutrients flowing through your bloodstream to maintain your metabolism (yes, the “concentrations” of nutrients can stay the same regardless of blood volume, but more blood volume = more nutrients (in terms of dissolved physical mass) always present too). Also, you need to have enough blood volume to efficiently take away waste products to be filtered by the kidneys. Oh and guess what? You also need sodium for your kidneys to function in the first place to balance osmotic pressure during urine formation. And of course you also need enough blood volume so that urination doesn’t deplete you too much.

    Do you see the link here? Water *alone* by itself does not magically increase blood volume. You need salt to maintain the proper osmotic balance.

    TL;DR — Salt is the maintainer of blood volume and its cleanser as well. More blood volume equals more blood pressure but that is really just the only downside — to all of the advantages of extra blood volume including more (physical mass of) nutrients dissolved/carried in the bloodstream and more capability to remove waste products.

  130. One of the main problems is normal table salt, because it’s bleached and has other crap in it you don’t want. I doubt the people in the study were eating that.

    But pure sea salt or himalayan salt is good for you and has alot of good minerals in it.

    I’ve definately found after an epsom salt bath to detox that putting a bit of himalayan salt in water does help refresh me and absorb it better.

  131. When I took my first aid training, it was recommended that you take 1/8 tsp of salt(preferably sea salt) for every one liter of water instead of similar sugary drinks . Replenished you electrolytes and does not contain artificial sweeteners, sugar, colours, and other chemicals.

  132. Hey, Mark!
    I’m wondering about the difference between the super refined salt that was part of my parents’ diet and still is standard for many, and the sea and mineral salts that include trace minerals. When I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knee, my naturopath recommended turmeric and upping my salt intake. He specified “not refined” salt. It was at that point that I stopped worrying about my salt intake. Since it’s not my favorite thing, I think it’s unlikely that I’ll overdo it.

    Second, I seem to remember my brothers taking “salt tablets” when they were swimming competitively in the summer, to adjust for the sodium loss from sweating while swimming and not realizing it.

  133. Eat carbs and insulin levels go up causing kidneys to retain sodium. The body retains water to balance sodium concentration in the blood. Blood pressure goes up.
    This is textbook nutritional science known since about the 1860s yet it is ignored and we are told eating too much salt is the problem. As a matter of fact if one is eating a low carbohydrate diet they would do well to increase sodium intake substantially ( along with other minerals ) to compensate for the kidneys excretion of sodium due to low insulin levels ( a good state to be in ).

  134. Anything more than a sound bite is lost. People have become black and white simpletons whether it’s salt intake or politics. Too much, too little? Try the middle. Not too left or too right be for a Constitution of the people and bright.

  135. After suffering acute congestive heart failure in 2001, I was told to reduce salt intake. My potassium went dangerously high so I had to drink something to flush my system. When I had an emergency appendectomy in 2009, I was on a liquid diet of broth (very salty), etc. and noticed that my potassium level decreased into the mid-normal range as a result. After that, I ignored the caution about sodium. I use Celtic or Himalayan salt the last several years. A pacemaker keeps my heart beating steadily, and I live a normal life; I garden every year and am almost to the average life span for a woman.

  136. Thank you for addressing the absolute NECESSITY that is salt! Honestly, the more people that do, the better. The fact that salt is so demonized is seriously one of the most underrated issues we have… ‘The Salt Fix’ anyone?

    I used to limit my sodium completely and my cortisol levels flew sky high. I had no idea it was due to an electrolyte imbalance for so long but as soon as I began taking electrolyes, BAM, everything normalized.

    I personally consume probably 4-5g of added sodium per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s absolutely essential for fasting. It’s done wonders for my energy when it’s hot too.