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Avoid Added Salt

Like sugar, there are few things that humans crave more than salt, which explains its high level in most processed foods. However, some in the Paleo community have started claiming that eating more than the RDA of 2,300 mg of sodium per day is healthy. The reality is that added salt has a variety of health consequences; it also does not agree with the Paleolithic template.

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Sodium is an essential nutrient; we’d die if we didn’t consume it.

Beyond that, there isn’t a lot of mystery to salt. Despite the claimed health benefits of less processed forms like sea salt, all salt is mostly just sodium chloride. Much of the health impact of salt comes from the sodium in the compound. Our bodies don’t care if it comes from a saltshaker or a pink rock.

The ethnographic data indicates our Paleolithic ancestors ate 1,000 mg of sodium or less per day. In fact, it would have been next to impossible for hunter-gatherers to eat even the current RDA for sodium based on the natural foods available to them.

Yet, there is an increasingly popularized notion among some in the Paleo world that hunter-gatherers ate a high salt diet. They claim that eating more than the RDA is good for us. They’ve tried to back this claim by saying that our ancestors followed animals to salt-licks or got their sodium from animal blood. Neither theory holds much scientific weight.

The fact is, science has shown that humans crave two foods above all else—sugar and salt. We already know the many negative consequences of excess sugar consumption. So why would salt be different. Unfortunately, the answer may lie in the fact that in Western society, most natural unprocessed foods aren’t considered very palatable without a pinch of salt.

The claim that eating more salt is healthy came out of a series of studies in the mid-2010s that showed a J-shaped curve relationship between sodium consumption and mortality. The people who ate a lot of salt had higher rates of mortality, but so did people who ate a low-salt diet. Dr. Loren Cordain, the founder of the Paleo Diet movement, wrote extensively about these studies showing serious methodological flaws. When the flaws were corrected, the relationship was a straight line: increasing salt consumption correlated with increasing mortality rates.

Since those studies were published, Dr. Cordain and the team here at The Paleo Diet® have written extensively about the negative impacts of excess sodium on our health and how it contributes to many diseases including hypertension and heart disease, cancer, autoimmunity, and insulin resistance.

What is just as important as the quantity of sodium in our diets is the ratio of sodium-to-potassium. Increasing the potassium in your diet can mitigate many of the negative health effects of salt. The easiest way to improve this ratio is to reduce the added salt in your diet and increase the fruits and vegetables—both are high in potassium.

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The Sodium/Potassium Ratio and its Importance in Human Health
Evidence suggests that the sodium/potassium ratio in the Paleolithic diet is far more beneficial to human health when compared to a typical Western diet.
By Mark J. Smith, Ph.D.
The effects of salt substitute on community-wide blood pressure and hypertension
A high-salt diet contributes to hypertension or high blood pressure, but did you know that increasing potassium in your diet can offset some of the effects
By Dr. Marc Bubbs
Ketogenic Diets: Long-term Nutritional and Metabolic Deficiencies
While the Paleo diet and ketogenic diets are often confused, they have important differences that need to be recognized. Read more about the potential drawbacks of a ketogenic diet in today's post.
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Fish Roe and Caviar: Paleo? Yes and No
Fish roe is considered a delicacy in most cultures and societies outside of the U.S. Is it acceptable to eat fish roe or caviar when following a Paleo diet?
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Key Nutrient Series: The Role of Sodium and Potassium in Our Diet
The question of how much salt we should eat has become one of the biggest debates in the Paleo community. Read the series to find out!
By The Paleo Diet Team
Does a Low-Salt Diet Cause Insulin Resistance?
There's a belief in the Paleo world that a low-salt diet leads to insulin resistance, but the science shows the exact opposite - a high-salt diet causes it.
By Trevor Connor
The Dangers of High Salt Diet: Impact on Autoimmunity
Our Paleo ancestors survived on a low salt diet. Today, it's everywhere and nearly impossible to avoid. Discover the dangers of a high salt diet.
By Dr. Marc Bubbs
Salt is a Killer Without Huge Intakes of Fruits and Veggies
Could sodium be compromising your health? Read more about the connection between sodium intake and the Paleo diet in a paper by the founder of The Paleo Diet, Dr. Loren Cordain.
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Capers, a Paleo Condiment
In today's post, the experts from The Paleo Diet explain why you should pass on canned capers. Follow The Paleo Diet's blog for Paleo meal plans, easy Paleo recipes, and more!
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
A Rare and Never Before Published Book Chapter Concerning Salt and Cancer
Read chapter two of Dr. Birger Jansson's book linking sodium and cancer here on The Paleo Diet website. Keep up with our blog for Paleo recipes, news, and tips for Paleo lifestyles!
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Revisiting Sea Salt: Dr. Cordain Responds to a Reader's Comment
Learn more about sea salt & the benefits of the paleo diet. The Paleo Diet® is your online source for healthy paleo recipes & diet plans. Browse today!
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Keeping Blood Sodium Levels in Check for Paleo Athletes
Diet too low in sodium can be dangerous especially for athletes engaged in endurance sports.  Is possible to keep sodium levels in check without supplement?
By Stephanie Vuolo
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Paleo Leadership
 
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.