cutting the salt, pouring salt from a salt shaker, reduce salt

We’ve been told to ban the salt shaker and avoid salty foods. No more chips, pretzels or pickles. But are there tradeoffs when you cut back on sodium? Low-sodium soup often tastes bland. Even when you add other spices, it doesn’t have the same appeal. One reader shared her perspective on low-salt food:

Q. You have written about salt restriction before, so I’d like to add my opinion. I have spent two decades as a caregiver for elderly people and I have seen what a low-salt diet does to them.

Many people lose interest in eating altogether, since salt-free food has very little flavor. My mother deprived herself of salt and still died at 77 of heart disease. I think that people need to weigh this question for themselves.

The Ongoing Low-Salt Food Controversy:

A. Health experts have been debating the pros and cons of a low-salt diet for decades. The controversy has heated up recently because of evidence that both high and low salt intake are linked to higher cardiovascular mortality (Lancet, July 30, 2016).

An eminent expert in hypertension, Dr. Franz Messerli, notes that people with high blood pressure should not overdose on salt. He goes on to point out:

“However, in people with normal blood pressure, lowering salt intake has little if any effect and may even be harmful when becoming too severe.”

This appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, April, 2017.

Our Readers Weigh in On Low-Salt Food:

Torrence offers this perspective:

“Salt. The elder generations never were concerned with salt. My great-grandmother lived to be 100 years old and salt was never a concern with her.

“I do believe that genetics has something to do with our reaction to sodium, but can’t prove it except by what I just stated. I believe we have become so concerned with just about everything we eat we’re not sure what we are eating.

“I have news for all of us. We are going to die some day and I don’t believe salt will cause us to die way ahead of time. I’m 77 going on 78 and don’t really care if I live to be 90 or more. I have seen the plight of those who live to be even over 80 and most of them wind up in nursing homes. NO THANKS!”

Cindy is not too worried about eating low-salt food:

“I adore salt and do eat lots of it. I always add extra salt to my food. When I was a kid I often ate salt out of my hand! I’m happy to report that, at 63, I still have a ~110/70 BP and feel great. Anyway, this article is good news to me.”

Sally in Charlotte, NC, suffered from too little sodium (hyponatremia):

“My husband and I came from New York City and Pennsylvania. We found ourselves in Charlotte, NC. The realtor we used was not looking out for our best interests. We moved from an uptown location to SouthPark (way overpriced and mismanaged). Then we ended up renting, which turned out to be like going from the frying pan into the fire.

“I became so stressed I could hardly get any food down. I lived on water for the most part until I suddenly passed out and had a seizure. (I’m not seizure prone).

I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with hyponatremia. How many of you have heard of this? It usually occurs in athletes as a result of drinking too much water and not getting down enough salt. It often leads to coma and death. I got lucky. Don’t cut salt out of your diet!”

Everyone is different:

Some people are salt sensitive. If they have high blood pressure and consume excessive amounts of sodium it can be dangerous. But for people with normal blood pressure, using a moderate amount of salt in cooking should not be as risky as the American Heart Association has suggested. There are now a growing number of health experts who believe moderation in sodium consumption (not too much and not too little) makes sense.

What do you think? Please comment below.

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  1. Garry TM

    When using Sea Salt or Himalayan salt remember that they will contain little iodine when compared with many table salts with added iodine.

  2. John

    I had been on a low salt diet since my late 20’s as I had a high stress job and assumed the higher blood pressure was partially due salt. In my late forties I developed arterial sclerosis and went to an unprocessed foods diet amongst many other changes. My sodium intake was so low I developed heart palpitations and my blood pressure went up. I now eat as much unprocessed salt as I like, blood pressure is normal and no heart issues. I believe that if I had not read a book on salt and questioned what I was doing that low sodium intake would have killed me.

  3. dzrlib

    I agree that a normal amount of salt is essential for good health. My mother-in-law almost died from using a ‘salt substitute’, which contributed to hyponatremia.

  4. Marshall

    Never liked ‘traditional’ table salt. Used little to none. Several years ago started using the ‘salt’ dug out of the ground, so-called ‘ancient sea beds’, usually ‘pinkish’. You don’t need a ‘ton’ on your food. There are some ‘cheap’ sources, or you can pay $10.00/lb. Do your ‘homework’.

  5. NorthwoodsCynic

    Salt restriction for everyone is a “one size fits all” approach. Modern medicine is abandoning this approach, as it is not appropriate for many people. Some people would do well with less salt, while others (myself included) seem to need more. As an anecdote, my father and his brother used salt freely, and their blood pressures remained low. I do not engage in salt restriction, and my BP this morning was 110/68. (And I am not taking any antihypertension medications.)

  6. Elise
    New Jersey

    Your article about salt in our diets reminded me of a friend I had many years ago. We would invite each other for dinner once or twice a week and I never new he didn’t add salt when he cooked vegetables. He said that he added marjoram to the water. I never missed salt in his cooking. How much he add I never asked but it may be worth a try for people to experiment as to how much to use.

  7. Mike
    Smithfield, NC

    I have congestive heart failure and have to limit my sodium intake or pay the price. For example: if I eat at a restaurant that puts a lot of salt on my food I will retain fluid in my lungs and legs, bottom line I suffer.

    I do not care for the taste of salt substitutes they change the taste of the dish. I use tabasco (lower sodium than other sauces). It changes the taste but I have learned to like the flavor. If you have any suggestion that may help please let me know.

  8. Barbara

    I have a rheumatoid arthritis and therefore I am On a low sodium diet I can tell you that I have lost weight on this diet my swelling is down in my joints and I’m able to make food that is tasty without salt the only real issue being careful with eating out at restaurants And the fact that you’re limited as to what you could eat however if you don’t mind reading labels it’s a great diet last time I went to the doctor my blood pressure was perfect I would recommend this diet only have thousand milligrams per day

  9. Millie

    A few years ago my doctor recommended that I have more salt, after I came to him complaining of frequent dizziness whenever I stood up or went upright after bending down even a little bit. I started salting my food rather generously and haven’t had dizzy spells since then, plus my food tastes better, and my blood pressure has been in the same normal range as before. Some people just need more sodium than the AHA thinks we do.

  10. Susan

    I’m a 69 year old female. I deal with fibromyalgia and had a heart repair valve surgery nine years ago. This was due to an acquired condition not heart disease. Because of my heart situation, the cardiologist keeps a close watch on my cholesterol and BP. That being said, I always salt my food – probably more than most people. I walk 20-30 mins about 5 days a week. My BP remains in the low to normal range. I believe that some people are just born, due to genes, with a propensity towards low BP.

  11. Frances

    My husband has high blood pressure and was told to cut down on salt. We were in the er a week later, and he had kidney failure due to being on lisinipril and salt intake was too low. Then had to add salt, and he was taken off lisinipril. New med of atenlol added and kidneys are okay and blood pressure is 115/65. Some meds can be deadly.

  12. Sharon

    I use Sea Salt instead of table salt. It has the minerals in it and is better for you. The brands I use are, “Real Salt” & Fleur de Sel. You can buy these on line or at your local health food store. However a little goes a long ways like they say. But I feel good when using these salts. Sometimes my blood pressure is too low, so I will pour a little in a glass of water & drink. Perks me right up!

  13. Jane

    I don’t much trust ‘scientists’ any more, after telling us 50 years ago to dump the real butter for margarine, and now saying they were all wrong about that. Grrrrr…..

    I love salt. It’s inherited. Wish I were a cow with a salt lick.

  14. Janet

    Dr James DiNicolantonio has written a well researched book on why many of us may need more salt rather than less, title is The Salt Fix. He has been interviewed on other health podcasts about this controversial book and would be an interesting guest on this topic. I eat a low carb traditional diet that includes no processed foods, so add sea salt to keep electrolytes in balance while adding great taste.

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