Is Salt Really That Bad?

Sodium is Necessary

Realize that sodium is a necessary element and nutrient for the body to function. It is an integral part of the nervous system enabling neurons to fire, regulates blood pressure (lower or higher), and works with other electrolytes such as Potassium and Magnesium in the kidneys to maintain an Acid-Base Balance. “In humans, sodium is an essential nutrient that regulates blood volume, blood pressure, osmotic equilibrium and pH; the minimum physiological requirement for sodium is 500 milligrams per day.” –Wiki

The fact is, that the body can tolerate a heck of a lot of sodium and has the capability to get rid of it ifthe kidneys and other organs are functioning properly.


Mark Sisson states: “First of all, outright demonization of an element as important as sodium is silly and foolish. We literally have a physiological requirement for sodium (about 500 mg per day), and we come equipped with sensory apparati on our tongues (taste buds) specific to salt and extant for the express purpose of identifying salty things so we can consume them. It’s obvious that salt is necessary, and that it’s not poison.”


Too Much

Everyone has experienced it: Your body retains water when you eat a high salt meal, you’re thirsty and get bloated. It does this to maintain a stable concentration of sodium in the bloodstream. More water retained, less concentration. This extra fluid retention results in a temporary increase in blood pressure until everything returns to normal as the kidneys catch up and excrete the excess sodium and water. Not a big deal unless you are constantly taking in too much sodium throwing everything off balance.
Lets face it, salt does taste good on some foods and brings out flavor, but adding it all the time out of habit is bad medicine. And, you do get enough salt the foods you eat: fruit, vegetables, meats, and eggs all have sodium, so adding table salt really is overdoing it. There are a ton of other seasonings and herbs to explore which are a heck of a lot more tasty and a lot better for you.

Too Little

Going out of your way to drastically eliminate sodium consumption can have a reverse effect. If the body senses too little sodium concentration in the blood, a substance called Renin is released to holds on to sodium instead of excreting it.

(More on the Renin–angiotensin system HERE)

Restricting how much salt we eat can actually increase our likelihood of dying prematurely. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that “the less salt people ate, a physiological cascade of events is set off that seems to end with an increased risk of heart disease.” The American Journal of Hypertension released a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects and “found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.” European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported: “the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine, (an excellent measure of prior consumption), the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous.”

Read this:


The fears and vilification of salt began in the early 1900’s and continues to this day. If you’ve ever had high blood pressure, chances are salt is fingered as the prime suspect. “Cut your salt intake and take this blood pressure medication and you’ll be fine”, you are told. Sure, increased sodium intake can raise blood pressure, but it also regulates blood pressure, and is critical in many other bodily functions.


Lately however, some researchers have begun taming down the attack on salt as the sole source of high blood pressure and focused in on other factors, such as: How much potassium and magnesium we are getting, how many processed foods we are eating, stress, hypertension, and even excess fructose. These factors have all been gaining focus and attention, and in fact, are the real risk factors for high blood pressure and eventual cardiovascular disease, not the salt shaker.

It's About Balance
Balance of electrolytes within the body is imperative to efficient function. Various hormones regulate sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride in the kidneys. Any imbalance for too long, too often and there will be problems. The typical human diet loaded with acid-forming grains, sugars, and salts forces the kidneys to work harder, get overloaded, and pull minerals from other locations. This is where the problem starts: eating habits, leading to problems such as Kidney Stones, Osteoporosis (calcium pulled from bones to neutralize acid), Arterial Blockage (excess calcium floating around), Arthritis, Systemic Inflammation, Gout, and Hypokalemia.

Eat more foods with Potassium and Magnesium


Lynn Silver and Thomas Farley write: “The safest and preferred pathway to increase dietary potassium is to increase the consumption of unprocessed, potassium-rich fruits and vegetables,” but point out that years of educational campaigns have had little impact. People continue to ingest huge amounts of salt, get high blood pressure, and rely on lowering medication instead of cleaning up their diet. Potassium helps neutralize excess sodium to maintain balance in the kidneys. Avocados, sweet potatoes, chard, and most fruits are excellent sources of potassium.

According to this release by the AMA:

“Recently, several studies suggested that the ratio of sodium to potassium intakes represented a more important risk factor for hypertension and CVD than each factor alone,” write the authors. “Examining the joint effects of sodium and potassium intakes on CVD risk is particularly important because most of the U.S. population consumes more sodium and less potassium daily than recommended.”


Magnesium is one of the most depleted minerals in our soil, which transfers to fruit and vegetables lacking this critical mineral. Magnesium is essential to all cells of all known living organisms, and lacking it can inhibit bone growth, lower the absorption rate of calcium, promote asthma, migraines, cramps, hypertension, fibromyalgia, and increase overall inflammation within the body.


Good sources of Magnesium include leafy greens, like spinach, swiss chard, and kale, nuts, halibut, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate (yes!), and mineral-rich spring waters.

Fructose Induced Hypertension

The average human diet is loaded with sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup. HFCS and refined sugars are in literally thousands of foods and are strongly linked to hypertension. Of critical importance to hypertension and elevated blood pressure is the presence of fructose in the small intestine, which increases absorption of salt and retention in the kidneys. Regular consumption of sugar, starch, and grain consumption allows sodium to seep into the system, which increases blood pressure through water retention, leading to hypertension.

Other problems with excess fructose include: additional work by the kidneys to evacuate the water and sodium, unnecessary formation and release of triglycerides by the liver, into the bloodstream, unwanted fructose absorbed into the bloodstream itself, and excess circulating sodium is a known aggravator and trigger of Asthma.


“Dietary fructose also increases salt absorption by the kidney, thus suggesting a synergistic effect between fructose and salt intake; you ditch the sugar and maybe the salt isn’t such an issue." -Gary Taubes


Other Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Hypertension



Psychosocial stress is a major cause of hypertension, even among people with low-salt diets. Throwing stress and its associated metabolic reactions into the mix of a poor diet is like gas on a fire.



The side effects of pharmaceuticals are well known, many of which cause bloating, liver malfunction, kidney stress, hormone dysregulation, all contributing to imbalance in the body. Finding out the cause of a problem is much safer than simply taking a drug to mask the symptoms.


Non-Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Although it’s not always feasible financially or logistically to eat organic food, the fact is commercially grown produce is raised in soil that is stripped of nutrients yields produce that is stripped of nutrients. Over-fertilization, certain pesticides, waxes, and picking produce before it’s ripe all contribute to a less-nutrient dense apple or piece of broccoli.



Social drinking is of epic proportions. Gluten in beer and the havoc alcohol does to the liver all contribute to malfunction elsewhere in the body, especially the kidneys.


Tips to Reduce Salt Intake
Avoid Condiments
Make your own salad dressing

Try herbs
Buy Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
Forget soy sauce
Avoid processed meats
Eat cured meats and cheeses in moderation
Nuts and popcorn are married to salt
Choosing low sodium is a given
Watch out for other salts: MSG, baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, and sodium nitrate all boil down to the same thing: sodium




We Only Think We Know The Truth About Salt: Gary Taubes


It’s Time To End The War On Salt: Melinda Moyer


The Role of Salt in the Pathogenesis of Fructose-Induced Hypertension: - Manoocher Soleimani and Pooneh Alborzi




"The average American gets 90% of his or her calories from processed foods, and because processed foods are typically very high in salt (sodium), this is a health issue on an epidemic scale. In fact, 77% of our sodium intake is from processed foods." - M. Sisson