HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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.

                        1 Reply
                        1. Salt has electrolytes! It's what humans crave!

                          But seriously, moderation is the key, and offset your sodium intake with copious amounts of water. Or not copious amounts...just "enough." Salt acts as a diuretic, among other things, so if the rest of your diet isn't up-to-snuff, then obviously there are going to be problems. The primary problems with salt can most often be offset with water.

                          Our taste buds have adapted to be able to taste salt. I think there's solid reasoning behind it... Salt itself isn't "bad." :) Pass the umami, please.

                          Recipes, Restaurant Reviews, Food News and More - http://www.epicureforum.com

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: sirregular

                            when running a marathon, some carry salt packets to help sustain their endurance...electrolytes yes.

                            1. re: justagthing

                              When I exercise in humid conditons, I sweat out a lot of salt, and I get migraines if I don't replace electrolytes properly. A couple years back, I did Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, and I could feel a headache start to come on around mile 10.

                              Made a lunge for the nice salty pretzels at every aid station that had them, and managed to starve off the headache until I could eat properly after the race.

                              1. re: beachmouse

                                yep, i've known friends that actually have a white powdery look and yep, it was salt. aide stations...life savers!

                            2. re: sirregular

                              Re: sirregular...

                              "Our taste buds have adapted to be able to taste salt."

                              More information, please. I'm not sure this is accurate. Blood is an evolutionary substitute for saltwater, so no adaptation was necessary. Any science you can cite as a fact source?

                              Salt is NOT a diuretic. Just the opposite. Sodium helps your body retain fluid, not release it. Diuretics help RID your body of sodium and water. To understand more about the nature and types of diuretics, please read more about diuretics from the Mayo Clinic here:

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                My understanding was that salt is one of the basic four tastes, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter; that recent evidence supports fat as a basic taste in humans and that umami is gaining wider acceptance as a fifth taste (as we have seen in discussions on this board). The only other thing that I had heard about salt and the other basic taste categories is that babies and the very young are more sensitive to these tastes and learn to tolerate more / stronger tastes as they get older.

                                In entirely unscientific discussions and writing I have seen salt, sweet and fats at the top of many lists for basic human tastes and this seems, anecdotally, to be true - chocolate, deserts in general, peanut butter, salty toffee - in the long list of popular favorites that are made largely of these three ingredients.

                                1. re: vonwotan

                                  Each taste bud is hard-wired for sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Not just areas of the tongue -- every single taste bud has five separate relays for these flavors.

                                  Please

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    For those who are either interested in learning more about the health effects of restricted sodium intake and lipid lowering approaches, or if you are simply having trouble sleeping at night and are looking for something to assist you in getting your Z's:


                            3. I agree with what others have said, unless you have a medical condition that prohibits using salt, salt in moderation is healthy & required in most cooking that tastes good.

                              1. Well, chances are that our grandparents exercised (or engaged in physical activity) more than we do, which helps get rid of salt in our bodies. People's salt requirements vary. However it seems that the Standard American Diet has way too much salt, mostly in the form of processed foods -- especially considering how sedentary most Americans are. I can't believe how many people I encounter that are so adverse to walking a few blocks. My friend drives four blocks to get to the bus station.

                                I do cook with sea salt at home but do not use the amounts that most restaurants use (a no-salt diet would probably be my idea of hell). When I eat out, while I love the taste, I usually find myself feeling very bloated and groggy. I attribute some of that feeling to the excess salt I've consumed. You can retrain your tastebuds to accept less salt -- it takes some time.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  I have done just that over a decade ago, but it really didn't take that long. Nowadays, things seem so over salty to me when I go out and eat. I make sure to drink lots of water to make up for all the salt intake. One of the things that I don't understand is when I see someone salt their food without even taking a bite to taste it???

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    Another thing to remember about our grandparents' salt consumption is that for millenia, salt was one of a very few reliable ways to preserve foods. Most food traditions include salted meats and pickled vegetables because this enabled people to eat through the winter. Salt was esstential for health because it prevented people from starving or getting food poisoning, and in the face of that possibility you might not worry too much about a heart attack in 20 years, even if you knew about the connection between salt and heart disease. In other words what is "healthy" depends on context.

                                    Of course, once a food is part of the tradition, people become attached to it even if the original survival rationale no longer applies. We now have access to fresh and frozen foods all year around, but if you grew up eating ham or olives or dill pickles, it can be hard to give them up!

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      hey miss needle, how do you figure out what is too much salt if you don't have high blood pressure and don't feel bloated or groggy? (i wonder if the bloat / grog is because you've acclimated to a low salt diet?)

                                      1. re: cimui

                                        I really do believe in listening to your body. Everybody is different and I think all of these recommendations that the government gives you are just guidelines. I actually don't really listen to them or change my diet based on every freakin' nutrition study that comes out. But I find that some people aren't very happy unless they're given strict numbers (my dad being one of them). He actually counts how many classes of water he drinks, and won't drink more or less because his doctor told him to drink 10 glasses. And because he's over 70 and has problems with night urination, he drinks his 10 glasses of water before noon and will refuse to drink any more water, even if it's 95 degrees out. Talk about rigid.

                                        Not sure how long it would take to acclimate, but I did travel for a month where I ate out all the time. While a lot of the food was on the lighter side (Southeast Asia/Asia), it was really salty and I felt kind of crappy when I got back. Even though I loved everything I ate, I really was happy to come back to my home-cooked meals.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          btw, I wanted to clarify what I meant by "listening to your body." Getting that great sugar buzz 10 minutes after eating 15 chocolate bars isn't what I'd call listening to your body. Best way to listen to your body is to see how you're feeling 1-2+ hours after eating something. Sometimes our love for a certain item will block our judgment. : )

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            heh. i was going to say: i think my body mostly tells me it wants caffeine and salt -- which, if you think about it, balance each other well. whatever water you retain because of the salt, the caffeine gets rid of. ;)

                                            quite seriously, tho.. i do wonder if part of the reason i like salt so much in part because i have very low blood pressure!

                                            1. re: cimui

                                              I think your hypotension probably has something to do with your salt cravings -- doesn't hold for everybody because I know a lot of people with hypertension who love salt. You may want to try get some more of your salt in healthier ways as in sea vegetables -- kelp, laver, etc. as opposed to sprinkling Morton's salt on everything.

                                              I have at times overdid it with salty foods. I then have cravings for sweet. Then I eat too much sweet and need salt to balance. After going through this thing a few times, I realize that I've eaten way too much salt and sugar. While at the end I don't have any more cravings and am more "balanced," I feel sick to my stomach. : )

                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                i really appreciate you sharing your expertise, miss n!

                                                1. re: cimui

                                                  You're welcome! I hope you get your hypotension under control.

                                    2. Salt is a nutrient that human beings need to survive. Given the "average American diet," if such a thing exists, a salt deficiency is unlikely.

                                      If you have doubts about what your doctor told you, a second opinion is never a bad idea. If you don't feel like shelling out the money to a doc, MedLine Plus, Healthfinder.gov, and Harvard Medical School's InteliHealth.com are all reliable, authoritative sources for consumer health information.

                                      My grandparents probably ate far less processed food that I do, so I'd probably have to consciously cut back my intake to match their consumption levels, but that wouldn't hurt me any.

                                      1. There is no RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for salt even though it is a necessary mineral for human nitrition. The ESA (Estimated Safe & Adequate) level is 1200 mg. per day. If you eat prepared & processed foods, this can be consumed in one meal. You might be amazed at the sodium levels of seemingly "healthy" foods - V-8 juice blew my socks off. However, a meal containing a lot of fruit, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, prepared at home from healthy ingredients, would not come close to this level unless you deliberately add salty food, i.e. corned beef or bacon. Salt consumption is also dependent on physical exercise, among other things, so whether you can eat as much salt as your grandparents is not something I can answer. But I will venture a guess that your grandparents did not eat the same diet as many Americans do today and (she says further out on the limb) that they probably didn't put on a purple lycra suit to drive to the gym to run on a track!

                                        If you think your doctor's advice might be "behind the times" get another opinion from a physician you trust. In the case of hypertension, safe is much better than sorry.

                                        As other posters have noted, there is no "one size fits all" answer to your question.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Sherri

                                          And it depends not only on exercise but on your diet overall (how much water do you consume daily?) - if you aren't hypertensive, but still want to feel more secure ab out your salt consumption, you should find a second opinion. But you absolutely need salt for good nutrition, too!

                                        2. Salt is like water and fat and sugar and everything else - if you don't consume any you will die, and if you consume too much you can die from that too. Moderation IS the key, but what exactly "moderation" means depends on the individual and their personal health conditions and risks. If your doctor is worried about you, cut back a little. Otherwise don't worry about it. Stress is also bad for your health!

                                          1. I'm certainly not a medical expert, but I would echo the sentiment that you really need to find out and explore how salt affects your body individually.

                                            For example, I and the other males in my family have a history of hypertension. A few years ago I undertook a major fitness overhaul of exercise combined with a moderate diet -- lost 50lbs, dropped cholesterol to 150 -- and my hypertension did not change AT ALL. My doc wasn't necessarily shocked, though. Diet and hypertension are strongly linked for some people, not at all for others, while yet other people probably fall somewhere in between.

                                            The good news is that this is not a difficult experiment to perform on yourself. Cut you salt for a few weeks, monitor your BP, and see what happens. The worst that happens is nothing (and your food is a little bland). In that case, there are many meds you and your doctor can explore. In my case, the meds are much more effective in regulating BP than dietary changes.

                                            As for the "standard American diet", don't forget Asian ingredients. The sodium content in basic Asian ingredients easily adds up to several times the "recommended" daily allowances for sodium intake. Yet, billions of people eat this kind of diet every day, a diet which overall tends to be considered among the healthier cuisines. I'm not suggesting this means that salt is harmless for everyone in every case; just that it is tricky to isolate individual ingredients and draw broad sweeping conclusions about them.

                                            Most likely, whether salt or other single ingredients are "good" or "bad" for us is a complex interaction between the context of our overall diet, our individual lifestyles, and our particular genetic makeup.

                                            1. just as everyone else as stated moderation is key. most prepared foods has waay too much salt. there's also quite a lot of hidden salts like canned whole tomatoes! however, a small amount of salt is necessary to sustain a good balance. and no salt can become a problem if you're a runner like my husband who recently got into trouble from a no salt diet. he eats relatively healthy but was recently diagnosed with hypertension so we started a very low to no salt when preparing foods. coincidentally, he's preparing for a marathon and he went for a 15 mile and came home very very sick. his body was lacking sodium and was going into shock. so i had him guzzle some salt and he literally ate some salt. he was nauseous and was very sick but then he ate the salt and started to recover. any case, that's an example of when salt became necessary.

                                              1. Bottom line: If you are or have good reason to be concerned about a particular health risk, talk to a doctor. The latest stuff I've heard is that salt exacerbates high blood pressure, but won't cause it in the first place. But as I said, the doc is the one to talk to if you're concerned.

                                                Otherwise, it's pretty easy to stay away from the worst offenders, salt-wise. Just avoid pre-packaged, processed, preserved, and junk foods, and read labels. It's really not hard at all if you cook most of your own food from scratch. And where you need to use canned foods (e.g., tomatoes, beans, etc.), find brands that don't contain salt. They're out there.

                                                1. Wow. This thread is like a microcosm of the great salt debate. "Yes it is. No it isn't. Yes it is. No it isn't." Monty Python would be proud.

                                                  I don't profess to have the answer and I don't know who to listen to. I have chosen a hybrid of 2 that are mostly on the side of salt. First of all, salt in moderation. Much like anything, too much is bad. It's like asking if Iron is good for you. Yes it is. Just not too much. Secondly, provided you have two good working kidneys and drink your recommended 8 glasses of H2O/day, your salt intake shouldn't matter. Unless you're consuming a box a day.

                                                  I also use kosher or sea salt. By almost all accounts, they're healthier options than table salt.


                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                    Kosher salt and sea salt are exactly the same, chemically, as any other sodium chloride, so I suspect that the "almost all accounts" you refer to aren't scientific.

                                                    Aside from some trace elements and minerals that you may find in sea salt (not nearly enough to make a difference nutritionally), the only difference is the shape of the crystal. Because kosher salt and many sea salts are flaky, rather than the tiny cube-shaped crystals of kosher salt, they pack together less densely. That means that a spoonful of kosher salt will actually contain less salt than the same spoonful of "table" salt. You can weigh them both to verify this. Of course, if you measure by weight, a gram is a gram is a gram.

                                                    Sorry to be pedantic, but claims like this, about kosher or sea salts being healthier, are a pet peeve of mine!

                                                    1. re: Kagey

                                                      Regarding Kosher salt and sea salt being healthier I can only go by what I've read and what I've been told by my doctor or my nutritionist.
                                                      Now, perhaps it's as simple as them weighing less per volume unit and thus you get less salt.

                                                      This will back up your claim.


                                                      1. re: Kagey

                                                        Regardless, sea salts (and other fancier ones) do help contribute to a healthier diet.. in a psychological way, at least.

                                                        Because they are generally more "flaky" like Kagey said, and packed together more loosely, if you are using them at the table to supplement your dishes, you might tend to use less, because for the same amount of NaCl, they look like more by volume.

                                                        There's more flavour too, with all the extra elements in the sea salt, so, again, if you train to satiate your tastebuds with more flavour and less saltiness, you would end up eating less NaCl as well.

                                                        I also think that it's futile to waste your salt quota by adding a lot of it *embedded* in the dish you're making (imagine, of the biteful of, say, pasta or bread or anything that you just ate, how much of the salt you added in actually had contact with the tastebuds on your tongue?). If you sprinkle the salt on top of your food just before you eat it, it is guaranteed that that more of that NaCl would hit you where it should.

                                                        I have been trying to limit my salt intake too. Being someone who cannot eat anything without having it adequately salted to my liking, I found that it works pretty well if I start by under-salting the dish and then using a good quality sea salt at the table.

                                                        1. re: tarteaucitron

                                                          I so agree. In my own, unscientific, study I proved your theory true with my sister-the salt addict. It does not matter if I add salt while cooking or not, she adds the same amount to her food, when she uses my sea salt she actually sees it on her food and uses less.

                                                      2. re: Davwud

                                                        Jeez, I've had high blood pressure for yeas and it's been my understanding from what I've read is that salt doesn't directly affect BP but rather the water that the salt causes you to retain. So drinking the water doesn't offset the effect of salt. I refused to go on a low salt diet so my doctor prescribed a diuretic for me to help keep the BP down.

                                                        1. re: Merle 1

                                                          Me too. I take the pills and BP is low. But what about all those people sucking back bottled water all day? Higher BP? More work for the poor heart?

                                                      3. here are a few snips from the book "the food connection" by sam graci (inventor of Greens+)

                                                        salt above a certain level is harmful...

                                                        there is a delicate sodium/potassium balance in our body. too much salt raises sodium levels and simultaneously depletes potassium levels. potassium neutralizes some of the toxic effects of excess sodium intake...

                                                        we can use sea salt with added potassium to reduce sodium levels...

                                                        humans evolved to handle 2-3 grams of salt per day. most people in north america average 10-15 grams per day.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: excuse me miss

                                                          >>>most people in north america average 10-15 grams per day.

                                                          Nah. I don't know where that statistic comes from, but it's off.
                                                          It's about 4000 milligrams (4 grams) per day.
                                                          Still, that's twice as much as the amount of sodium recommended.

                                                          Only 10-11% of the sodium Americans ingest comes from the salt shaker.
                                                          The rest is "hidden" in packaged goods.

                                                          Information sources:

                                                          The second link, above, from the LA Times also talks about a possible crackdown on salt in processed foods by the FDA.

                                                        2. If you don't have a medical problem and salt doesn't bother you, maybe you don't have to worry. But let me contribute this: my husband has congestive heart failure and so is required to weigh himself every day as soon as he gets up and chart his weight on a graph he keeps in the computer. Sudden increase in weight is due to too much salt so that he retains fluid. So, what's interesting here is that every time the line in his graph suddenly spikes upward---he has eaten in a restaurant. Commercially prepared food is LOADED with salt. And beware of studies that prove salt or sugar or etc is good for you---often they are funded by the industry pushing that product.

                                                          1. My husband has high blood pressure and is on medication. His cardiologist said cut the salt and lose weight. He has cut the salt and feels much better! He has now become very sensitive to the taste of salt - a little goes a long way and that was not always the case.

                                                            1. This might sound silly, but I wonder if your salt tolerance (or how much one's body can take) also depends on regional/climate factors.

                                                              e.g. if you're in a hot/tropical area, you tend to sweat a lot, so your body can tolerate (and probably needs?) more salt.

                                                              I can't cite any scientific sources to back this up, but it seems to make sense. Also, I know this is anecdotal evidence, and if I were writing a scientific report based on this, I'd be a bad scientist :-P, but I've also noticed that while lately, I find umeboshi (a salted/picked Japanese plum) too salty to eat (used to love this stuff as a kid), on really hot days, I find eating a small umeboshi really refreshing.

                                                              Japanese food is seemingly healthy, but now that I've started reading labels more carefully, it always shocks me how high in sodium many of their things are (also, recipes call for adding tablespoons of soy sauce, and each tablespoon is about 1000mg of salt!).

                                                              But Japan gets humid sticky hot in the summertime. I don't know the national hypertension rates, but considering how salty their food is, I'm surprised there aren't more cases.

                                                              I tend to prefer foods that aren't overly flavored/salted, so I find a lot of things too salty when I eat out. I also usually omit salt when I'm cooking, since the recipe usually tastes plenty flavorful (at least to me) w/ herbs, etc. w/o the extra salt.

                                                              However, now I'm starting to discover that a small bit can enhance, so ironically, while I cut out salt in recipes (except in baking), I've also been experimenting with sprinkling ground up maldon salt on many things.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: anzu

                                                                Japanese food is extremely salty (as well as Korean food). Japanese and Koreans have the highest incidence of stomach cancer in the world. One of the theories that currently exist is their high-salt diets.

                                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                  Wow. Korean food, too? I usually notice garlic and spice as the more prominent features of Korean food (or I notice these more than the saltiness).

                                                                  I didn't realize that they had such high rates of stomach cancer.

                                                              2. I'm not a physician and I know nothing about your medical history. That being said, I am an exercise physiologist (PhD candidate) and have had some training on fluid and sodium balance. From my understanding, the only reason to worry about salt intake is if you have problems with blood pressure because sodium is involved in your regulation of fluid. The simple explanation is that high sodium leads to a rise in blood volume and if you have high blood pressure, this will mean a rise in blood pressure. If you have normal blood pressure, this will self-correct without a problem. If you have abnormal blood pressure or heart disease, you already know that your circulatory system does NOT correct itself normally, so this is why such a slight increase in blood volume would be cause for concern.

                                                                Interestingly, a new study was just published that links dietary salt consumption to exercise-induced asthma... but that's a different story...

                                                                So, to answer your question, if you have normal blood pressure and you are otherwise healthy, there is no reason to cut back on salt that I can think of. I'm SURE there's an upper safe limit, though, so use some common sense. And if you start wheezing when you workout, then you might consider cutting back (AND see your doc).

                                                                I hope that helps.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: katiei

                                                                  Several people (including you) said that there's no need to cut back on salt if your BP is normal, but I wonder if there are cumulative effects over time.

                                                                  On the one hand, my BP hasn't changed much over the past almost-20 years. But them my mom (same genetics) who I think used to have normal-to-low BP is now being told by her doctor that it's borderline high, which makes me wonder if I should still watch salt intake, even if it currently runs lowish.

                                                                  1. re: anzu

                                                                    Salt doesn't cause chronic blood pressure increases in people with normal blood pressure... it's the ever-so-gradual hardening of the arteries that does. From my understanding, everyone has this (atherosclerosis) to SOME degree, but the idea is to control its progression by keeping your intake of dietary cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats at a reasonable level AND (importantly) by including some type of cardiovascular exercise as part of your daily routine. :o)

                                                                2. I'm just going to say this: whenever someone gets admitted to the hospital with any severe (but not immediately life threatening, like gunshot or heart attack), what's the first thing they do? Set up an IV drip.

                                                                  And what are they dripping into you? Saline solution.

                                                                  In other words: salt.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: FrankD

                                                                    Because low blood pressure will kill you in the short term while high blood pressure will kill you over a much longer term. Hospitals are mostly (and rightly so) worried about the now and not so much about the then.

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      Last time I went in, my BP was so high, it went past the numbers on my speedometer. They still gave me saline first thing.

                                                                      1. re: FrankD

                                                                        Evidently those clever scientists have anticipated this problem and make certain IV saline solutions which counteract the effects of too high a concentrate of salt in the blood steam (see below):

                                                                        "In many cases, the doctors will combine saline solution with dextrose or glucose, which will help minimize the amount of sodium in the blood stream and prevent the corresponding complications"

                                                                        Which makes me think that adding an IV saline drip to your blood doesn't boost your BP, but rather lowers it. They must take your BP at the hospital before giving you the saline IV? I doubt they would do that if it would imperil your health.

                                                                        ADD: Just a bit more about the science of IV saline solutions (evidently there are more than 100 different saline solutions being made for various medical applications):

                                                                        "Dextrose 5% in water (D5W) is another isotonic crystalloid. However, it's not used for resuscitation because, as its glucose is metabolized, this fluid quickly becomes hypotonic. In fact, D5W is a good source of free water.1 As with other hypotonic fluids, such as 0.45% NS, the water quickly shifts out of the vascular bed and into the cells, by way of osmosis.

                                                                        Nurses frequently give hypotonic fluids to correct cellular dehydration and hypernatremia.1 Give them with caution, however, because as they shift water out of the vascular bed, hypotonic fluids can worsen hypotension in a patient with low blood pressure.1"

                                                                        So, if I'm getting the above straight, the type of saline they would use on someone with very high blood pressure would actually move the water out of the "vascular bed" (the veins and arteries) and into the cells, thereby lowering the BP of the patient.

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        did any of you watch the movie "hemo the magnificent" in high school science?

                                                                        "sea water"

                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                          Yup. That was exactly what I thought of when you wrote that, thew.

                                                                      2. re: FrankD

                                                                        The salt in IV solutions is proportionately the same as or less than the amount of salt normally in your blood (there are exceptions for people who don't have enough sodium in their blood or who have too much water on the brain).

                                                                        You get saline as opposed to water so that you don't fall into a coma from low blood sodium levels.

                                                                        I work on a trauma unit- the most common maintenance IV fluid we administer is 5% dextrose, 0.45% sodium chloride, and 20 mEq of potassium per liter of water. That is actually lower salt concentration than your blood. IV gatorade, essentially.

                                                                        This has almost nothing to do with long-term dietary intake of salt.

                                                                      3. As others have suggested, the correct answer is "it depends". For most people, a high sodium diet isn't going to have an adverse effect. For some people, it will. You might be one of those people, but you probably aren't.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                                          "For most people, a high sodium diet isn't going to have an adverse effect."


                                                                          I have heard conflicting advice from registered dieticians and physicians as to whether or not people who do not already suffer from salt sensitive hypertension (high blood pressure) would still benefit from cutting back.

                                                                          For what it's worth, the following meta-analysis seems to disagree with your advice - info collected from various studies showed that even people with normal blood pressure saw lower blood pressure after long-term lowering of sodium intake compared to controls.

                                                                          From what I can read without paying for it, the analysis was concerned with populations and doesn't consider whether some individuals are almost completely insensitive to salt. Also, it relies on other studies to imply that lower blood pressure translates to fewer strokes, heart attacks, etc. But the analysis would seem to take issue with the notion that most people will suffer no consequences from a high sodium diet.

                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                            if they have normal blood pressure , what would be the advantage in lowering it further?

                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                              If you really want to make yourself crazy just google the words interstitial salt & blood pressure and you end up reading the latest scientific findings which appear to either contradict, or at the very least show that there is a lot more going on as regards blood pressure and salt intake. Just for instance:

                                                                              "We conclude that MPS cells act as onsite controllers of interstitial volume and blood pressure homeostasis, providing a local regulatory salt-sensitive tonicity-responsive enhancer binding protein/vascular endothelial growth factor C–mediated mechanism in the skin to maintain normal blood pressure in states of interstitial Na+ and Cl– accumulation. Failure of this physiological extra-renal regulatory mechanism leads to a salt-sensitive blood pressure response."

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                Depends. We're not talking about lowering your blood pressure, strictly speaking. We're talking about having lower blood pressure down the road than someone who ate more salt. People with high blood pressure weren't born that way.

                                                                                Also, generally speaking, as long as your body is perfused well with blood (i.e. you're not having problems associated with clinically significant low BP), lower blood pressure is easier on your heart and vascular system, regardless of which synthetic category we put it in (hypo- normo- or hypertensive).

                                                                                How much should a healthy person expect to benefit from this? I don't know. I still salt my cooking until it tastes good.

                                                                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                I for one have been told by my doctor to INCREASE my salt intake.

                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                  For symptomatic low blood pressure?

                                                                                  There are lots of reasons this wouldn't apply to some individuals. I'm not suggesting anyone ignore their doctor.