Something that becomes glaringly evident after getting into this whole, “Ancestral Health”, Paleo Template deal, is that many things that are demonized and reported to be highly unhealthy by the mainstream, are often completely harmless or even benef
icial when looked at in the correct context. The reason for this is that the S.A.D (Standard American Diet) is so full of toxins and anti-nutrients, that it actually makes some food items unhealthier than they would be by themselves or in combination with other healthy foods. Sometimes these foods are purely only guilty by association.
Does salt deserve its bad reputation?
Salt happens to be one of those much-maligned foods (Ok, so it’s a mineral, but we still eat/drink it!). Chris Kresser posted an article on his blog April 6th, 2012 entitled “Shaking up the Salt Myth: The History of Salt”. Here are some excerpts….head on over to Chris’ blog to read the rest:
“Salt has been the subject of controversy in recent years, and has increasingly been blamed for a number of poor health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. (1) Salt is ubiquitous in our modern diet, with Americans consuming an average of 10 grams of salt per day. Of this amount, about 75% is derived from processed food; only about 20% is naturally occurring or from discretionary salt use, such as that added in cooking or at the table (the rest comes from sources such as water treatment and medications). (2, 3) Most of what we read and hear about salt these days is telling us that salt consumption needs to be reduced, and it has even been referred to as “the single most harmful substance in the food supply”. (4)”
“The development of human civilization is intricately linked to the pursuit of salt: wild animals wore paths to salt licks, men followed these animals and built settlements near the salt deposits. (6) These settlements became cities and nations. The human obsession with salt has spanned thousands of years of human history, across many different contexts and continents. Nearly every society in existence has some level of salt use not only in their cuisine, but also in their medicine, their politics, their economies, and even their religious practices.”
“Salt has even made its way into our language as a metaphor for value: hardworking people are known to be “worth their salt”, and the most worthy amongst us are known as “the salt of the earth”. The root word “sal-” is of Latin origin and refers to salt. Words that have been historically based on humanity’s high value for salt include “salubrious”, which means “health-giving”, and “salary”, which is derived from the Latin salarium, the money allotted to Roman soldiers for purchases of salt. (9)”
“But what about human pre-history?
Despite the human taste and desire for salt, dietary salt intake was likely extremely low in Paleolithic times. There is no evidence that Paleolithic people engaged in salt extraction or sought out inland salt deposits, and the current estimate of Paleolithic intake is similar to that of chimpanzees. (13) Preagricultural humans are estimated to have consumed only 768 mg of sodium each day (about 1950 mg of salt), which is much lower than our current intake. (14) The mining, manufacture, and transportation of salt originated in the Neolithic Period, when agriculture was developed.
The question is, what drove Neolithic man to begin the inevitable search for salt? Not surprisingly, the move from a hunting-and-gathering diet to one consisting largely of grains and vegetables necessitated the procurement of supplemental dietary salt. (15) Humans, like many carnivores, can meet their salt needs by eating meat and seafood, provided they do not sweat excessively. (16) For example, the Masai, nomadic cattle herders in East Africa, can easily obtain adequate dietary salt by drinking the blood of their livestock. In modern and historic hunter-gatherer societies, it has
generally been found that hunting tribes do not make or trade salt, unlike agricultural tribes, and once humans began cultivating crops, their dietary need for salt increased. (17)
Based on what we know about Paleolithic consumption of salt and how it compared to Neolithic and modern-day intake, where does this leave us in terms of our own salt consumption? Is it ideal to completely avoid salt and simply eat enough animal products to meet our needs? Or can added dietary salt play a role in optimal health and wellbeing, despite its theorized absence from the original Paleo diet?
In Part 2 of my series on salt, I will be discussing the physiological roles of salt in the human body, and what the evidence says (or doesn’t say) about our need for dietary salt.”
Way to leave us hanging there, Chris! Oh well, I guess we’ll have to wait until the next installment to find out all of the details. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that Chris is going to tell us that salt is a necessary part of our diet, and doesn’t cause high blood pressure like the mainstream thinks it does. Stay tuned…..
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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
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