The Paleo Diet And Salt - The Recommendations

About a week ago in, “The Paleo Diet And Salt - Follow Up” I promised that I would report on Chris Kresser’s recommendations for salt usage, when Chris got

around to posting the final piece of the pie. A few days ago, on the 4th of May, Chris was kind enough to oblige with “Shaking Up The Salt Myth: Healthy Salt Recommendations“.

The Paleo Diet And Salt - The Recommendations

“As you may realize by now, salt has had a very colorful history, both in the development of human civilization as well as public health politics in the past century. While salt was originally prized by many cultures for thousands of years, in the past century it has been demonized; some have gone as far as

calling it the single most harmful substance in the food supply. Yet as we know, sodium plays a crucial role in optimal health, and too little salt intake can be dangerous in the long run.”

“How much, and what kind of salt to include in the diet

Salt Crystals

According to research, there exists a range of sodium intake that likely confers the best health outcomes for most people. As I explained in part 3, findings from a 2011 study demonstrate the lowest risk of death for sodium excretion between 4000 and 5990 milligrams per day. (1) Sodium excretion greater than 7000 milligrams or less than 3000 milligrams per day was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and death. This lowest risk range equates to approximately two to three teaspoons of salt per day.”

“While salt recommendations vary between individuals based on age, gender, physical activity, and health conditions, I feel that the data supports an intake between 3000 and 7000 milligrams of sodium, or 1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons of salt, per day. People who are quite active or sweat a lot should consume salt on the higher end, and those who are less active may want to consume on the lower end. Of course, there may be some conditions where moderate salt restriction is warranted, but for the majority of healthy individuals, salting to taste will provide an appropriate level of sodium in the diet. Natural sources of sodium include sea vegetables, fish, shellfish, and meat, plus certain plants such as beets, carrots, celery, spinach, and turnips.”

“What type of salt should you buy?

One question frequently brought up in the Paleo community is what type of salt is best. This is a difficult question to answer. There are a wide variety of salts available on the market, all claiming health benefits

over the others. While the answer to this is unclear, there is some research demonstrating a difference in mineral content and flavor intensity of certain salts that would be better options than common table salt.

A fascinating 1980 study examined the different indigenous, pre-industrial methods of salt production, and their respective mineral contents. (7) Some salt production methods included drying marine algae or fish eggs, fermenting marine fish blood and entrails, and even using sea water soaked in peat that was dried and burned to create salty ash. This study compared the mineral contents of these traditional salts with industrial table salt, as well as a variety of sea salts and other “health salts” on the market. The indigenous salts were found to be higher in combined essential and nonessential trace elements than both the table and sea salts.”

Chris goes on to talk a little about certain types of salt that he does not recommend, and points out that regular table salt (while not the devil) is basically lacking any of the additional minerals and nutrients that you would find in the more natural, less processed salts, like sea salt etc.

I think that as with many of the foods that we focus on in the Paleo Template, the less processed, more natural choice is usually the best way to go, even when it comes to salt.

Let’s also not forget that salt is not the bad guy that the pushers of conventional wisdom have made it out to be. Salt is not something that should be avoided, but adding boat loads of regular table salt to every dish or every meal isn’t a good idea either. As my friend Paul Rawlinson often says, “Too much of a good thing, is still too much”.


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One Response to The Paleo Diet And Salt - The Recommendations

  1. HeatherT May 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Another note on salt is that in Northern Europeans, a rather large number of people have one cystic fibrosis gene. Having ONE of the genes is thought to confer some resistance to cholera, but two of the genes is fatal. Anyway, people with one of the genes don’t handle salt correctly, they excrete it too quickly, and their skin tastes saltier.

    I often wonder if the reason for the gene might be that it infers the ability to live off saltier water, which would be a very good thing for those living near the ocean. But in any case, the *need* for salt varies a lot between individuals. Some people on low-salt diets do very poorly, and runners have died from “hyponatremia” which they say is from drinking too much water, but like the name says, it means “lack of salt”. Salt tablets used to be given out to athletes and soldiers, because so much salt is lost to sweat.

    In animal husbandry, salt is given to animals as a salt lick, and they just eat whatever they want/need. Seems like that’s a good policy for people too. As long as there are lots of greens and vegies for potassium, most people will get the sodium they need based on their cravings?