Is Salt a Health Food?

There is no reason, other than taste, to consume salt. And that includes ANY sodium chloride, such as table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, Celtic sea salt, Himalayan salt, fleur de sel, etc.

Why?

Because salt is not a health food.

Many people do not believe this because it seems that we can eat sooo much salt and still live to tell the tale.

Just look at the United States. The average American consumes 3,466 milligrams of salt each day and while our health is anything but lively, we still live to be almost 80 years old on average!

But that does not mean salt is healthy. Here’s the proof:

Salt Makes You Thirsty

What happens after just one bite of a salty meal like popcorn, pizza, or Chinese take-out? You get terribly thirsty.

Okay, pretty obvious. But this thirst is actually telling you something very important.

It’s a sign that your body is doing everything it can to get rid of the irritant, namely by creating thirst so that you’ll drink something (hopefully water and not cola) to dilute the substance you’ve just ingested.

When you ingest salt, the delicate sodium/potassium balance is thrown out of whack. To compensate for the extra sodium in your blood, water molecules move from your cells into the bloodstream via osmosis in an attempt to restore balance. This leaves a water deficit in the cells, aka dehydration.

Dehydration is never a good thing and is why your body calls out for more water. If you ever feel thirsty, it is because you are dehydrated. Salt is dehydrating.

Salt Makes You Sweat

So what happens after a few more bites of that salty dish? You get seriously sweaty.

Another no-brainer, but do you know the reason? It’s because in addition to the liver and kidneys, your skin is a major source of detoxification. In other words, sweating is simply another way for your body to eliminate the salt.

Don’t believe me? Eat a salty meal and then taste your sweat. Pretty salty, eh? Now you know why.

And yes, when you give up salt for good, your sweat will no longer taste like a salt lick. Definitely a plus! :D

Salt Makes You Burn

And in more ways than one! Not only does salt in an open wound hurt like a you-know-what, but it also burns your tongue.

Contrary to popular belief, salt does not “enhance” the flavor of the foods you eat. What it does is chemically irritate your taste buds. This makes them more sensitive to the food, ultimately dulling your sense of taste.

This is why chronic salt users need more and more and more salt added to their foods to receive the same flavor hit that they used to receive from lower doses.

Salt Makes You Vomit

Okay Swayze, now you’re talking crazy. I just ate an entire dish of salted peanuts and I don’t feel the urge to upchuck one bit. Explain yourself!

“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.”

I’m sure you’ve heard that bit of poetry before, but do you know what it’s referencing? It’s the vast and mighty ocean.

Why not a drop to drink? Because at around 3.5% dissolved salts, seawater is extremely salty! Drink enough of the stuff and you will vomit it up.

Similar to the urge to drink water after a salty meal, the urge to vomit after consuming an even heavier dose of salt is your body’s attempt at getting rid of the stuff. When ingested, heavy amounts of salt water induce retching by irritating your gastrointestinal tract.

Your stomach contracts and you vomit.

And while unpleasant, vomiting is a life-saving reaction. If you were to keep this large amount of salt in your body without access to any pure water, you would become extremely dehydrated, your kidneys would shut down, and you would die.

Salt Makes You…Dead!

Yep, salt’s a killer too. And not just for those crazy enough to sample the salty sea.

As I said, Americans consume 3,466 mg of sodium a day (the government recommends 1,500-2300 mg, or 1/2-1 teaspoon). This seriously unhealthy practice has been linked to big killers such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and (no surprise here) kidney disease.

But We Need Sodium!

Yes, we do. Sodium is absolutely vital for regulating body fluids and maintaining your muscular and nervous systems.

We also need chloride, as it is necessary for regulating body fluids and forming stomach acids.

What we don’t need is salt. So then where do we get our sodium?

From fresh produce, of course!

Our sodium and chloride needs are very small.In fact, pretty much any diet sufficient in calories will provide enough sodium, even a diet predominated by fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the best part?

Tangerines won’t make you thirsty, strawberries won’t make you sweat, bananas won’t burn ya, peaches won’t make you puke, and cantaloupes certainly won’t kill you.

You may go a little fruit-happy, but consider it a good thing. ;)

But I love Salt!

I know, giving up salt is hard. By far the easiest way to reduce your intake is to limit or even avoid processed foods like chips and pastries. Even so-called healthy packaged foods like soups are often brimming with salt, along with the neurotoxin MSG. Just giving up these foods will lower your sodium intake significantly.

From there, you can work on using less salt in your recipes. A really great healthy and delicious salt substitute is celery salt. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, you really need to. It’s so good!

If you just can’t bare to part with salt, that’s okay. Just be sure to keep your daily intake below 1500 mg per day (1/2 tsp = 1000 mg).

Go raw and be fit,
Swayze

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Post Updated: 4/3/2013

8 Comments

  1. This is absolutely untrue. Heeding bad advice like this is what led to my sodium deficiency last summer. And you need more if you eat a lot of potassium-laden foods (I eat mostly fruits and vegetables), like I do.

    Swayze Reply:

    You can get plenty of sodium simply by eating sodium-rich plant foods, like celery and spinach. You don’t need salt.

    Actually, I just took in about 800 mg of sodium today (mostly from cantaloupe, celery, and spinach). :)

    Swayze

  2. “What we don’t need is sodium chloride (NaCl). Both minerals in this compound are completely useless to the body. They cannot be broken down, which means they go into the body as NaCl, pass through the body as NaCl, and exit the body as NaCl.”

    Absolutely wrong. I enjoy your site, and I promise I’m not trying to knock your info, but it’s just not true. Every single basic chemistry course goes over ionic interactions (like NaCl), and in an aqueous solution (like in our body) they dissociate (ie. Na+ and Cl- become separate, detached ions that are free to float around). I enjoy reading your articles, but I have noticed that you like to make over-generalizations and use scare tactics to drive your point. I would love to see more validation with peer reviewed studies, and other factual evidence (anecdotal evidence is fine for personal use, but spreading it as fact is misleading, and can be dangerous).

    Thank you !

  3. Pierre Meneton continues in his article :

    People living in an industrialized environment ( consuming food with salt added to it , using extra salt ) have a much too high
    S / P = 1.8 to 4.2
    Our sodium-potassium “pumps” at cellular level are biologically not designed to function properly with this high S / P , leading to all kinds of cardiovascular health problems

  4. Stillewater,

    Great post!

    I read the articles that you linked and they had some interesting info in them.

    Getting the sodium and minerals in your diet is extremely important to maintain your blood chemistry but I would caution that some of these 1-2 paragraph articles are mostly aimed at mainstream dietary concerns. We know very little about the type of diet that the study group was on and any other controls that were included such as the type of salt used or how it was included in the diet.

    My own personal experience with salt is that it causes my heart rate to increase which is never favorable. Long time users can build up a tolerance to salts affects. (Body makes adjustments to the overuse) which tells me that it should probably not be a part of our natural diet.

    You mentioned that you are adding salt to your diet. How do you know that you need it? Have you been tested as salt deficient?

    I believe that you can meet the bodies sodium requirement by ingesting fruits and vegetables like celery that contain it.

    I have never heard of anyone in the US who has died of sodium deficiency.

    Again, great article but I would caution on drawing any large conclusions from such a short study.

    Hope you have an excellent day,

    Bill

  5. a very recent study by a university doctor in Belgium very surprisingly has found that :

    – people who consumed less salt proved to have a higher risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke

    – people who consumed higher levels of salt intake did not develop hypertension

    although i ban or remove every salt that is added to food , i now consume ( with a cooked meal ) the very minimum of unrefined high-quality sea-salt : that is the 1/2 teaspoon daily requirement
    ( salt without the added anti-coagulation agents – these agents are toxic or otherwise have too-small nano-size particles compaired to the size of the human cells)

    with google , you’ll find plenty of articles about this recent study ( see my next comment for some URL )

  6. Again, Great article!!!

    Salt is another good reason for avoiding processed foods. Most contain salt or some facsimile thereof.