To Salt or Not to Salt

To Salt or Not to Salt

Yogi Berra once confided, “I didn’t really say everything I said.” We’re not sure if he said that before or after he said “take it with a grin of salt.” But anyway, that’s what we’re doing when it comes to giving you advice on salt, because there is so much conflicting info out there you have to–well, you know -- what Yogi said.

The average North American takes in around 3,000-3,500mg of salt daily. The recommended intake is 2,300mg (about a teaspoon) -- unless you have high blood pressure, are over 50, are African American or have kidney problems; then it’s 1,500mg.

Our take: Dr. Steven Nissen, the chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic says, “There is no solid evidence to support the current recommendations.”

We say people who have salt-sensitive high blood pressure (less than 1/3rd of 1% with high blood pressure) are the only ones who clearly should restrict their salt intake. You can tell if you are one of those people if your BP falls by more than 30/20 when you severely restrict salt for a week.

Bottom line? Ask your doc. But if your blood pressure is high you probably have other things to talk about.

What we do know: Ingesting 5,000 to 6,000mg of salt a day or having a very low salt intake (differs by individual) seem to be associated with heart problems.  

Your best bet? Opt for herbs and spices such as garlic, cinnamon, pepper and fresh basil in place of salt or salt substitutes.

Medically reviewed in November 2018.

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