We get these questions a lot from patients. Government and health agencies like the American Heart Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, etc. have warnings about the overconsumption of salt and its association with high blood pressure and heart disease. These agencies recommend keeping your sodium intake to below 1500 – 2300 mg per day. (3/4tsp. – 1tsp or 3.75g – 6g).
There are several things wrong with this recommendation. First, how many people go around measuring their daily salt intake? Even patients that are taking blood pressure medication, if asked what their sodium intake was today, would have no idea. Most people do not go around reading labels and calculating their daily intake of nutrients.
Second, if we look at the research over the past 50 years, the average American has been consuming about 3700mg of sodium per day. This value has remained constant despite the rises in blood pressure and heart disease. So is salt really to blame for high blood pressure?
Well, the research does not seem to support that it does. Even in clinical practice, many patients who lower their salt intake to the recommended dosages still have no beneficial reduction in blood pressure (although there are patients who do experience a significant change).
Which brings me to the point. Salt recommendation really is dependent upon the individual. You need to consider age, gender, physical activity, and health conditions of the individual. It is my recommendation, based upon the data, that people should consume anywhere between 3000 and 7000mg of sodium per day. People who are more active and sweat more need to consume sodium on the higher level, whereas people who are less active would consume salt on the lower level. For the majority of healthy individuals, salting to taste should provide an appropriate level of sodium for the diet.
Lastly, we need to address the kind of salt someone is using in their diet. We know that traditional table salt is highly refined and lacking in both essential and non-essential nutrients (with the exception of the added iodine). Table salt also contains fillers like anti-caking chemicals (sodium ferrocyanide), aluminum derivatives (sodium silicoaluminate) and MSG or sugar. So it is reasonable to avoid table salt and replace it with traditional healthy salt.
Pink Himalayan salt or Celtic Sea salt are great sources of sodium as well as containing upwards of the 84 elements found in your body. These salts help to do things like regulate your water content, promote healthy pH balance, balance blood sugars, improve your immunity, provide electrolyte balance, prevent muscle cramps, promote vascular health, and promote bone strength (just to name a few).
So if you follow a healthy diet and limit grains and processed foods, the amount of sodium in your diet will be far less than that of the Standard American diet. And adding a bit of salt to healthy foods like bitter vegetables can make your meal more palatable and enjoyable to your taste buds and your health.