Salt/Sodiun Chloride

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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2021-08-24 (EDT)

See Also Clinical Nutrition
See Also Food Supplements

Salt is a crystalline mineral composed of sodium and chloride. In general, the diets of early humans were much higher in potassium than they were in sodium. Because of this our bodies evolved to retain salt and excrete potassium, and also to especially enjoy the taste of salt.[1] Salt is often added in high quantities to processed foods[2], therefore people who eat such a diet consume 10-20 times the level of salt that the body needs.[3] For many people salt can be addictive and the more salt one consumes, the more one desires.[2], [4]



Salt comes from the salt that is added to food while preparing, cooking and consuming food as well as from:

  • Processed food and fast foods tend to have very high levels of added salt.[5], [3] Salt is added to both to modify the flavor, and to act as a preservative.
  • Breads and rolls are a magor source of dietary salt, along with cold cuts, cured meat, canned soup, cheese, pasta and savory snacks.
  • Salt is often added to processed meat, such as sausage, so that it will retain water.[2]
  • Softening water with salt increases its salt content, and decreases the content of other minerals in the water.[5]

Types of Salt

  • Unrefined Salt
  • Unrefined salt typically comes from sea water or rock salts.
  • Unrefined salt contains a number of minerals other than sodium and chloride such as magnesium and calcium.
  • These salts are also used as ingredients in bathing additives and cosmetic products, such as alkaline salts and salt scrubs.
  • Refined Salt
  • Refined salt is commonly known as table salt. It has been processed so that the only minerals remaining are sodium and chloride and the trace minerals and essential macro-nutrients are removed. Anticaking agents, such as sodium alumino-silicate and alumino-calcium silicate are added to keep the salt from clumping. Both of which contain aluminum which contributes to Alzheimer's disease when ingested. For these reasons, unrefined sea salt is preferable to refined table salt.[5]
  • Iodine and fluoride are sometimes also added to table salt.

Associated Conditions

A low-salt diet may be recommended when treating the following conditions:

  • Sodium and potassium need to be consumed in proper proportion to each other in order to maintain optimal health. When salt is consumed in too great a proportion in the diet relative to potassium hypertension can result.[3] In general, the more salt one consumes, the greater their blood pressure will be, and the more it will rise with age.[2]
  • In many individuals, hypertension can be successfully treated simply by reducing salt intake, and increasing potassium intake.[3] Doing so has been shown to decrease blood pressure in people of all ages.[2]
  • Potassium may lower blood pressure, and help protect against cardiovascular disease.[6]
  • Human societies with a very low salt intake have generally low blood pressure levels throughout their populations. In such societies, blood pressure levels typically do not increase with age.[2] This is in stark contrast to most western societies.
  • High salt intake is associated with significantly increased risk of stroke and total cardiovascular disease.[7]
  • Weight Gain
  • Increased salt levels in the body can lead to water retention and increased weight.[5]
  • Elevated salt intake is associated with an increased risk of forming calcium based kidney stones.[2]
  • High salt intake is associated with an increase in bronchial reactivity, and thus, asthma.[3]
  • High salt intake leads to the removal of calcium from bone, and the loss of calcium in the urine.[5]
  • People with a low calcium intake are more prone to crave salt. Inversely, adequate dietary calcium intake often leads to a decrease in salt cravings.[8]
  • Other conditions including insomnia, air and motion sickness, Ménière’s syndrome and the pre-eclampsia of pregnancy.

Lifestyle Considerations

  • Maintaining the proper ratio of sodium to potassium in the body can be achieved by regulating the dietary intake of salt and potassium containing foods.
  • Consuming a diet high in whole foods promotes adequate but not excessive body potassium stores.[9]
  • White flour contains 75% less potassium than whole wheat.[9]
  • Coffee, alcohol, and refined sugar consumption generally leads to a reduction in body potassium stores.[9]
  • Diuretic liquids remove salt from the body.[9]
  • The proper functioning of the bodies smell and taste receptors depends on it having an adequate store of zinc. If a person adds salt to food because they do not find it taisty enough, this could reflect a zinc deficiency.[5]
  • Potassium chloride can be used as a substitute for salt.
  • Salt cravings can be due to stress.
  • The rise in blood pressure that typically accompanies acute stress is made more pronounced if the person who is undergoing the stressor has a high salt diet.[2]
  • Stress can cause the body to retain sodium. This is because stress taxes the adrenal glands, which are involved in regulating the balance of salt in the body. Avoiding substances that impair the adrenal glands ability to cope with stress can thus improve the body's ability to regulate salt levels.[5]
  • Exercise helps eliminate salt via perspiration. Exercise also helps to relieve stress which, intern, helps the adrenal glands to better regulate salt levels in the body.[5]

Assessment Procedure

  • The Fantus test measures urinary output of chloride, and is an indicator if dietary salt intake.[3]


Co-Authored by:

Dr. Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE [1]
Dr. Raymond Trott, ND
  1. 1.0 1.1 McCarty Mark F, Moore Richard D (2001) The Salt Solution, Avery.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 MacGregor GA, de Wardener HE (1998) Salt, Diet and Health: The Uses and Abuses of Salt Throughout History and it’s contribution to Disease in Today’s Consumer Societies, Cambridge University Press.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Pizzorno JE, Murray MT (1997) A Textbook of Natural Medicine Churchill Livingstone
  4. Katz David L (2001) Nutrition in Clinical Practice, Lipincott Williams and Wilkins.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Gittleman Ann Louise (1996) Get the Salt Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Salt Out of Any Diet, Three Rivers Press.
  6. McCarty Mark F, Moore Richard D (2001) The Salt Solution. Avery.
  7. Strazzullo P, D'Elia L, Kandala NB, Cappuccio FP (Nov 2009) Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ;339:b4567. PMID: 19934192.
  8. Somer Elizabeth (1999) Food and Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best, Second Edition. Henry Holt.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Pitchford Paul (2002) Healing With Whole Foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition, North Atlantic Books.