I seem to be always hearing that many paleo-folks are becoming iodine deficient due to salt avoidance. Is this just another case of "everybody knows" salt is bad for you? A new Scientific American article suggests the War on Salt is baseless (like most wars). What's your salt intake like? Do you consciously avoid salting food?
It wouldn't surprise me if the "experts" do a complete 180 degree turn regarding saturated fat, salt, and sun as it relates to health. 100 years ago these were all considered healthy and essential.
Saturated fats were consumed without guilt, cooking fats were lard and butter, spending time in the sun was considered a way to heal everything from wounds to tuberculosis and mental illness, and salt tablets were given to athletes.
Then all of a sudden, saturated fats became bad and were replaced with all kinds of terrible substitutes, we were advised to stay out of the sun and slather ourselves with sunscreen when we are forced to spend any time in it, and were also told to avoid salt.
The result was the worst multi-decade public health epidemic in the history of mankind. The lack of saturated fat, salt and vitamin D has been linked to numerous "diseases of civilization".
I think that salt, like actual granular salt that you can hold in your hand and put on your food, is perfectly fine, and your sense of taste will let you know if you have too little or too much. For example I crave more salt in the summer when I am sweating a lot more. Salt activates the enzymes in your mouth that begin the digestive process and helps you to eat and digest your food.
It's the "sodium" that is snuck into processed foods which is bad for you, because this is salt that you consume that sneaks past your sense of taste. For example canned green beans don't taste salty, but one serving of them can have as much as 1/4 teaspoon of salt which is probably way more than you'd otherwise sprinkle on an entire plate of food. If you eat a lot of processed foods you're probably eating teaspoons of unnecessary sodium every day.
I doubt that studies about this differentiate between sprinkled salt and sodium, just like most studies that investigate fat don't differentiate between good and bad fats, rendering the results misleading and useless.
I actually salt all my food with regular salt these days (use to be 100% sea salt), mostly because I have low BP and with constant GI issues I'm always dehydrated.
I actually learned here from these great folks that regular salt would be of benefit to me and they were right! Much less dizzy spells now and the salt helps me stay dehydrated easier.
I salt all my food, except for sweet potaoes (just cuz they're really good plain).
I do NOT however use iodized salt.
I do agree with your hearing that iodine-deficiency could be an issue for paleo folk. The solution is nothing to do with one's salt intake, though. Eat some sea vegetables with regularity and you'll get plenty of iodine. Kelp, dulse, nori, etc.
The human body is one big electrical circuit and needs salt to functions properly. Can one consume too much salt- of course but cutting it out completely can lead to bad things - the electrical paths ways in the body can begin to not function. Muscle cramps (I used to get these bad), head aches, nausea, mood swings and if it is severe, it can damage your internal organs, arteries and veins. Sodium has an important role in maintaining the water balance within cells and in the function of both nerve impulses and muscles.
Eliminating processed foods allows one to control the salt content in their diet. I used to have terrible leg cramps, I increased mu sea salt intake along with magnesium and they went away and have not returned.
Salt is a vital substance for the survival of all living creatures, particularly humans. Water and salt regulate the water content of the body. Water itself regulates the water content of the interior of the cell by working its way into all of the cells it reaches. It has to get there to cleanse and extract the toxic wastes of cell metabolisms. Salt forces some water to stay outside the cells. It balances the amount of water that stays outside the cells. There are two oceans of water in the body; one ocean is held inside the cells of the body, and the other ocean is held outside the cells. Good health depends on a most delicate balance between the volume of these oceans, and this balance is achieved by salt - unrefined salt.
Your question mentioned iodine deficiency, and salt isn't high in iodine UNLESS you're buying iodized salt. I buy a natural salt plus I use powdered kelp for iodine. Eggs and strawberries are also good sources, I think.
Lots of confusion of SALT and SODIUM here. We need the latter, not the former. I don't think it's been demonized that much because WAPFers eat it by the pound and so do most people in developed and developing nations. Even most paleo folk seem to use it. If you are getting enough sodium in your diet, then there is zero benefit from salt, only detriment. But if your sodium is lacking, then a little salt is better than none.
May I ask how our ancestors would have consumed salt similar to us sprinkling it on every meal? Maybe I am missing something obvious but if they survived without a salt shaker shouldn't that be close to optimal by our paleo beliefs (and lack of conclusive science)?
My view on this as a chemist is that the whole sodium retention/high blood pressure thing is just a simple kinetics problem (but I'll leave the equations out of this post). I'll start with the simple answer: If you're not metabolically deranged and eating a low carb diet, then you are free to eat as much sodium as you wish, your kidneys will get rid of the excess salt; however, if you are metabolically deranged and eating a high carb diet, then your kidneys will hoard ANY sodium they see so you can eat a near-0 sodium diet and still retain enough to raise your blood pressure.
Without going into all the signalling details (Robb Wolf has done that, look for his kidney posts - there are two of them as of this writing), the basics are that a high carb diet tells your kidneys to hold onto sodium. The increase in ionic strength of the sodium laced blood causes water retention which increases blood volume which increases blood pressure. That's the mechanism. The observable is that high sodium leads to high blood pressure. BUT here's the problem, since your kidneys will hoard ALL the sodium they see, you can eat a near-0 sodium diet and they'll still hoard it which will still result in high blood pressure. Likewise, if your kidneys are getting the proper signalling (read, low carb diet), then they will flush out any excess sodium in the diet, so you can eat as much as you want (within reason, of course, but it's a wide range of reasonable) and you'll pee out the excess sodium so you never get the high blood pressure.
So the actual observable should have been high carb leads to sodium retention leads to high blood pressure. It's just that that first step doesn't make it into the literature and people see sodium retention leads to high blood pressure, and naturally they say "reduce sodium to reduce blood pressure" then that doesn't work and they prescribe blood pressure meds.
IOdine and sea salt 5 Answers