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Jan 20, 2008 01:11 PM

Is Salt Healthy?

We hounds consume a fair amount of salt, from dishes prepared by chefs, cooks, and selves. We probably don't get much from snack foods or prepared commercial trays.
How safe is this dietary salt?
My doctor says moderation is the key; but you can't say that to a chef.
When I google dietary salt, it is easy to find studies that tear the anti-salt (heart disease) studies to shreds.
Is my doctor behind the times?
Can I consume as much salt as my grandparents?

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  1. In short : Yes. But you have to check what kind of salt and how much you are ingesting.
    Google and Health Researches will tell you.

    7 Replies
    1. re: lamaranthe

      What kind? It's NaCl whether it comes from Bretagne or Detroit.
      My question is really about hypertension, and whether eliminating salt will help lower blood pressure. The reviews of the major studies are inconclusive.

      1. re: jayt90

        Kosher Salt is just sodium chloride. Table salt is usually sodium chloride plus iodine, plus silicon dioxide to prevent clumping. Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water, so its mineral content is not just limited to sodium chloride and sea salt therefore has a lower sodium content per gram than other salts. These other minerals can add a different dimension of flavor, depending on where the salt originated.

        1. re: jayt90

          Individuals vary widely in blood pressure response to sodium. I have hypertension with moderate but not extreme salt sensitivity. A high-salt dinner will cause a spike in my blood pressure the next morning while other people may have no effect. The only way to tell is to make a log of your own blood pressure. Population averages really aren't very relevant.

          1. re: Eldon Kreider

            I find that my Omni monitor widely varies from my in-office doctor visits. Tey are not sure if its due to whitecoat readings or if my monitor is incorrect. What kind of monitor do you use?

            1. re: Mofro

              Bring your monitor to the doctor's office and have them use it to take your pressure after they take it with theirs. This was my doctor's idea. That way she can make better use of the readings I take.

              I use a Omron 780 and it matches the one they use in the tests.

              1. re: Mofro

                I am not sure that the brand is as important as the particular monitor. I did do a comparison in my internist's office where his cuff was on one arm while my monitor was on the other as well as sequentially on the same arm. I initiated that test with a newish monitor. I am a little surprised that your doctor did not suggest a comparison test the way BostonZest's doctor did as this is a great way to resolve several questions.

                Frequency distributions taken at the same time of day are more useful than scattered tests. I need to go back to taking readings soon after getting up in the morning (no effect from morning medication dose), around 90 minutes later, two hours later and in evening after dinner and putting separate distributions in a spreadsheet. Being retired helps on this sequence.

                There are a few restaurants I avoid because of heavy salt use.

                1. re: Mofro

                  Electric monitors can be extremely inaccurate. For some reason I always end up with borderline high blood pressure when using an electric monitor, but have blood pressure on the lower end when it's taken the old-fashioned way. A lot of doctor's offices now use the electric ones as well.

          2. No, salt is not healthy. It makes food taste better - but that is just because our palates are trained to taste that way. I barely salt any of my son's food, and he doesn't know the difference. If you don't think you get much from snack foods or prepared foods you are SOOO WRONG. The salt content in prepared foods is ASTOUNDING.. You are better off eating foods prepared by a trained chef, cook or yourself.

            An over-indulgence in salt can cause severe water retention, which in turn can cause the heart to work hard.

            Moderation in everything is key. Is wine bad? a glass no. Two bottles in an hour, probably. Is one Big Mac going to kill you, probably not. 10 a week, might just do the trick.

            I don't understand what your angle is. Why would you not want to believe your doc? If you don't trust him/her, that's the problem and you should start shopping around for a new one.

            And by the way, yes, you can tell a chef to go easy on the salt. I'm a chef and get that request often.

            6 Replies
            1. re: maisonbistro

              When I read the OP I took it to mean that anyone who thinks of him or herself as a Chowhound probably isn't eating lots of snacks and processed foods rather than salt not being an issue with those foods.

                1. re: maisonbistro

                  your argument, vis a vis your son, seems to hold little water. If all you ever fed your kid was mcdonald's hamburgers, he would also not know the difference, but that doesn't mean those are the best a hamburger can be.

                  Salt carries health risks to people with certain specific problems, like high blood pressure, but if one does not have those problems, there is nothing wrong with some salt in your food.

                  1. re: thew

                    I was recently diagnosed with low blood pressure (causing me to pass out) and my cardiologist's advice was to "over-salt" my foods while still trying to eat lean foods. I laughed at him first and asked him to repeat it never thinking I would hear that from a cardiologist. But it works, when I feel woozy I send someone to get me something high in salt and a bottle of water for my Crystal Light with electrolytes and I feel better in no time.

                    1. re: TampaAurora

                      I have the same medical issue. A certain amount of sodium is necessary for our bodies, just as a certain amount of fat is necessary as well. The right amount of sodium helps us maintain water and mineral balance in our bodies and having none at all can be deadly.

                      I do tend not to oversalt my food, because I know that in prepared foods there is already a significant amount in there, but with my particular health issue I don't seek out low-sodium foods.

                  2. re: maisonbistro

                    This might come as a surprise, but docs don't know everything - particularly primary care docs, and doubly so if they're not in a medical hotspot (e.g. boston). There are all sorts of cases where they might be a bit behind the times. Not too many years ago I had a PCP that was around 80 years old ... when I tell my coworkers (many of whom are MDs) some of the things he said they all laugh.

                  3. I think salt can be healthy, used in moderation, if it encourages an eater to make healthier choices-as in plain veggies versus those smothered with cheese, sauces and/or butter.

                    I generally use a very small amount or no salt when cooking but there are exceptions-dried beans, baked potatoes and grits spring to mind.

                    I let my guests know to feel free to use salt as they see fit (it drives me crazy when chefs, home or restaurant, try to dictate seasoning of the food someone else is eating).

                    1. Unless you have a medical condition (e.g. high blood pressure, etc.), then salt is fine.

                      But just like everything in life, moderation is key.

                      1. Salt is healthiest when applied to the rim of a margarita glass.

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