Don’t touch the stuff. It’ll spike your blood pressure and put you into cardiac arrest before you even know what hit you. Everyone knows that.
Turns out, that’s not at all true. Salt first got its bad name when researchers noticed that hunter-gatherers who were not eating salt had very low blood pressure. Obviously this must be because of the salt and the salt alone. There’s no way that eating lots of veggies, avoiding processed food, and living an active lifestyle had anything to do with it, right? Wrong. Sodium intake was just one factor in the health of the hunter-gatherers and researchers who failed to take note of the other factors did science a serious disservice.
The Health Benefits of Salt
In fact, salt (especially high-quality sea salt) is extremely beneficial. A proper balance of sodium and potassium is necessary for good health, including keeping blood pressure low and warding off heart disease. If you’re eating lots of vegetables (which you should), then you’re getting lots of potassium, which means you should be eating plenty of salt. Sodium also helps us stay hydrated by helping us retain water, especially during exercise.
Moderate salt intake (about two teaspoons per day) has been linked with improved insulin sensitivity, lower LDL and triglyceride levels, and an improved ability to deal with stress. As long as you’re avoiding the salt-laden processed foods, adding a couple teaspoons of salt to your home-cooked meals every day should not only be fine, but ideal.
Mark Sisson explained why restricting salt to the levels the “experts” want us to can actually be harmful.
Chris Kresser has an excellent series on salt that I highly recommend reading.