With a Grain of Salt

Health programs at work display tables like this, saying 2,300 mg is the magic number you shouldn’t go over.

How much sodium is in salt?

¼ teaspoon salt 575 mg sodium
½ teaspoon salt 1,150 mg sodium
¾ teaspoon salt 1,725 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt 2,300 mg sodium

That equals about 1/4 tsp of salt 4 times a day or 1/4 tsp every meal with one to spare and use as you like. I don’t have a salt-tooth so it might not be too bad.

As with everything else, though, I wonder where they got that number. It could be just like the 8 glasses of water myth. I have half a mind to measure out my 4 1/4 tsps and see how far that gets me in a day. The only problem is bacon. They’ve already added who knows what amount of salt to our butcher-made bacon. No-salt bacon does not exist anywhere for a price not unfair to the entire rest of humanity. I guess we could go with out bacon, for the sake of science…

In a recent talk at OSU, Jared Diamond even suggested that not using salt and not using sugar were the best things you could do for your health, to avoid the disease of civilization. He’s coming from the perspective that we have a lot to learn from traditional societies, so that has indeed piqued my potential to believe it. Still it could be only a correlation that traditional societies don’t use salt and don’t experience the diseases we do.

Authority Nutrition has a pretty good discussion on the topic, but comparisons and analyses of studies and their methods would be needed to really evaluate the claims of both sides. I like the conclusion though: focus on eating real food and wrestle a little with your cravings, following what your body is telling you, but also not letting yourself get use to what you intellectually know might be an unnatural (read: not available anywhere in the 6 million years of human evolution) amount. Anthropological theories about the sources of sodium during the majority of our biology’s history and whether we’ve made any major adaptations to greater or lower amounts of sodium in the diet would be the key to knowing for sure.