How Much Salt Is Really Good for You?

In the world of nutrition, a battle is fought continuously about whether or not certain products are right for us, what quantities of them are healthy, and where we should place our boundaries. This is especially true for salt. There are those who state that salt is entirely unhealthy, and there are also those who think it is healthy in specified amounts.

Let’s go more in-depth on this topic, and finally, find a solution to the question – how much salt is healthy for us?

The Importance of Salt

Salt is a natural compound consisting of 60% chloride and 40% sodium, and both of these have a vital role in our health.

Sodium, an essential electrolyte, helps maintain water balance in and around our cells. Sodium is required for healthy nerve and muscle function, and it helps stabilize blood pressure levels.  

Hyponatremia, is a condition where we have insufficient sodium in the blood, generally defined as a sodium concentration of under 135 mmol/L. Hyponatremia may be due to diuretic use, diarrhea, drinking too much water, and also to heart failure, liver disease, renal disease, and the syndrome of inappropriate ADH secretion (SIADH). Hyponatremia causes internal water levels to rise, which produces swelling of cells which may cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening.

Chloride is another essential electrolyte in the blood helping to balance the amount of fluid inside and outside of our cells. It also supports proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of body fluids.

From this, we understand that salt is necessary for our survival. But, we also know for a fact that higher salt intake is linked to specific health problems including high blood pressure [1] and heart disease [2].

So, the real question regarding salt is not whether or not it’s necessary for our health, but rather how much of it is needed to support our health?

How Much Salt is Recommended?

The most recent dietary guidelines suggest that you can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Bear in mind that this is sodium, not salt. As salt has 40% sodium as I previously mentioned, this is equal to just under a single teaspoon or six grams per day.  The elderly or people suffering from high blood pressure should consume less than 1,500 mg sodium per day. According to the American Heart Association, the body only needs less than 500 mg of sodium per day which is under 1/4 a teaspoon from all foods.

Everything above that is not necessary, and our bodies have a hard time dealing with higher amounts of salt. The body is a calibrated machine, and it regulates the concentrations of salt. If you add more than it needs, it will inevitably cause imbalance and lead to disease. 

However, there is concern that we are each affected differently by the same amounts of salt. [3] What may be a lot for someone, might not be so for another person. What’s more, some people see no effects from higher amounts of salt in their diet, while others experience problems like bloating or even higher blood pressure. 

Another problem is that lower amounts of salt can have adverse consequences. A consistent low salt diet can lead to higher blood cholesterol and blood triglycerides increasing your chances of developing heart disease. [4]

The Bottom Line:

So, what can we surmise from this? Different people have different salt thresholds, and a certain lower amount of salt is unhealthy just as is a certain higher amount. 

As it can prove to be quite complicated to find out what precise amount of salt is right for you, it’s best to stick to the recommended guidelines of sodium (between 1500-2300 mg/day). 

However, if you are regularly consuming fast and processed foods, it is vital to check the levels of sodium in these foods on the label as they will quickly add up. When reviewing the label, many food manufacturers mention sodium according to portion sizes which are often crossed. If you consume two or three portions of the food, as is often done with breakfast cereals, then the sodium should be calculated according to what you ate.

Regularly eating out will also usually bring you out of salt balance. I recommend eating out no more than 3-4 times a week if you must, depending on which restaurant you choose. Fast food places should be avoided or visited less than once a fortnight.

The necessary amount of 500 mg of salt per day can easily be reached just by consuming  vegetables and fruits:

  • One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains more than 300 mg of sodium. 
  • One cup of boiled spinach has 125 mg of sodium just as one sweet potatoes does.
  • One artichoke contains 75 mg of sodium.
  • Every medium sized red and gold beet contains about 65 mg of sodium. 
  • In every stalk of celery, there is 50 mg of sodium as there is also in a large carrot.
  • Every raw guava and passion fruit contains about 50 mg of sodium.

So if you are consuming a plant rich whole food diet, there is no real need to add salt to foods to get the rich, salty flavor we love.

But if you do what to add salt to your foods, learn about the one I recommend in the article I wrote here:

or the video I made about it here\;

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

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Thank You, 🙂

Galit Goldfarb


[1] Dietary Salt Intake and Hypertension, Sung Kyu Ha, M.D. Published online 2014 Jun 30. doi:  [10.5049/EBP.2014.12.1.7]

[2] Sodium Intake and Cardiovascular Health, Originally published13 Mar 2015 Circulation Research. 2015;116:1046–1057

[3] Salt sensitivity. Definition, conception, methodology, and long-term issues. Sullivan JM. 1991 Jan;17(1 Suppl):I61-8.

[4] Effects of low-sodium diet vs. high-sodium diet on blood pressure, renin, aldosterone, catecholamines, cholesterol, and triglyceride, Graudal NA, Hubeck-Graudal T, Jürgens G. 2012 Jan;25(1):1-15. doi: 10.1038/ajh.2011.210.