Salty truth: do you really need to cut your salt?

Photo by: Emmy Smith

We need salt in our food, no question about that. Salt maintains plasma volume in the blood, it contributes to the transmission of nerve impulses, and is critical in the proper functioning of cells.

However, too much sodium is harmful in many ways, and the scary part is that almost all populations in the world are consuming too much salt. Way too much!

The World Health Organization recommends that an adult does not consume more than 5 g of salt per day, which is equivalent to less than 2 g (or 2000 mg) of sodium per day.

Unfortunately, the average salt consumption in the world is almost 11 g per day, or more than twice the recommended amount of sodium.

Why is too much salt a problem?

Because eating too much salt has many consequences for our health and our weight.

Heart Attacks and Strokes

We all know that too much salt promotes high blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, or neurodegenerative complications. These effects are exaggerated when we don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables, which contain potassium, a key ally in lowering blood pressure.

But hypertension is not the only consequence of eating too much salt.

Here are 5 consequences of excess sodium consumption that you might not be aware of.

Malfunctioning of our cells (nerves, muscles, etc)

Excessive consumption of sodium chloride (table salt) has an acidifying effect in our body. Once the acid-base balance is disrupted, reactions within cells can’t take place correctly. Many inconveniences can result, such as fatigue, a tendency to sweat more than usual, bad breath, etc.


Another consequence linked to excess salt is the increased risk of osteoporosis, a process which leads to the loss of bone mass and makes our skeleton more fragile. Indeed, high salt intake results in a proportional loss of calcium, as it is eliminated in urine. Calcium is a mineral provided by food. Calcium deficiency in our body can accelerate bone loss and thus increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Kidney stones

Because too much sodium leads to a loss of calcium through urine, it will result in the presence of high concentrations of calcium in the urine and might promote the formation of kidney stones.

Weight gain and obesity

Salt has been scientifically recognized as having an addictive effect. Being accustomed to eating foods with a certain salt content stimulates our appetite for salt and makes us want to eat more and more of the salty foods that populate fast food restaurants and frozen meal aisles. Not only are these ultra processed foods linked to unhealthy weight and abdominal obesity, but the resulting excess salt can also cause water retention, amplifying weight gain and obesity. 

  • Not sure what ultra processed foods are. Here are a few examples: breakfast cereals, packaged breads and buns, reconstituted meat products, pre-prepared frozen or shelf-stable dishes, soft drinks, flavored dairy drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, confectionery.

Gastric cancer

Too much salt might also increase the risk of stomach cancer, which is the 5th most common cancer in the world.

Overall, an estimated 1.89 million deaths each year are associated with consuming too much sodium.

There are more consequences to eating too much salt, but the ones described above are the most common.

The good news is there are many steps we can take in order to reduce our salt consumption, and I am going to list a few of them for you.

How to reduce salt while enjoying food

Slashing your salt intake doesn’t have to be depressing. Here is how you can do it without feeling that food has lost all its taste and interest.

An important thing to note is that if you slowly reduce your sodium consumption rather than going cold turkey, your taste buds will adjust and you won’t notice a difference. 

  • It’s the same with sugar by the way, and something I work on with many of my clients, especially those who struggle with pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or sugar addiction. If you are struggling with high blood sugar, don’t hesitate to reach out and we can talk more about it. You can also read my 3 French Secrets to Help Avoid Diabetes without Dieting.

Instead of going from eating too much to no salt at all, I suggest that you gradually decrease your sodium intake. It might take you a couple of months to get to the right level of sodium, but you will get there while enjoying your food and not feeling deprived.

10 tips to reduce your salt intake: 

  1. Cook your own food as often as you can. Most pre-made or processed foods contain large amounts of salt, and may be causing you to unknowingly eat more salt than you think. For example, cheeses, meats, bread, and frozen meals all contain plenty of salt. Plus, if you do your own cooking, you can control the rate at which you reduce your salt content and continue to enjoy your meals.
  2. When you cook, only add the salt at the very end, just before serving. This allows your food to taste saltier as the salt flavor has not had time to dissipate as it diffuses throughout your food.
  3. Never ever add salt to your plate before tasting the food first.
  4. Don’t leave the salt on the table… it's too tempting!
  5. Use more herbs and spices to add flavor to your foods, allowing you to use less salt.
  6. Fill up your cart with foods that haven’t been transformed (fresh fruits and vegetables, dry beans and lentils, eggs…)
  7. When buying processed foods or prepared meals, chose low-sodium options.
  8. Avoid commercial sauces, dressing, soups, and instant products, and go easy on the condiments (these are often very salty)
  9.  When you bake, cut the quantity of salt systematically, until you get to about half of what’s recommended in most recipes. If you also reduce the quantity of sugar (up to the point where it doesn’t affect the texture of your baking), you will be able to slash salt even further.
  10. Make sure there is no added sugar in processed savory foods. If there is added sugar, you can bet manufacturers will have added extra salt to create the perfect balance and make that savory food taste savory rather than sweet.
  • Why would sugar have anything to do with salt? Every dish we eat must have the right balance of sweetness and saltiness in order to taste perfect. So, when you eat food that contains added sugar, you can be pretty certain that it will contain extra salt to maintain the right balance between sweet and salty. When we reduce the sugar content, we can reduce salt proportionally. So, when you chose products that contain very little or no added sugar, chances are their salt content will also be lower. 

Hopefully, the 10 tips above will help reduce your salt consumption and sodium intake. It takes a while to change habits, but if you keep trying and keep reminding yourself of the importance of making this change, you can succeed, little by little.

What about salt substitute?

You might wonder why I didn't mention "fake salt" as a way to slash your sodium intake. I am not a fan of substitutes in general, and when it comes to salt, here is why:

- Salt substitutes are not without danger. They contain potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride, and can increase the risk of kidney, heart, and liver disease. 

- They don't help reduce your taste and appetite for salty foods. On the contrary, "fake salt" might contribute to your enjoying even saltier foods because you feel that you can use as much of the substitute as you wish with no risk. As a result, it will be much harder to resist salty foods when you are out of your home and unable to use the substitute. 

Takeaway on salt

If you want to keep fully enjoying your food while at the same time reducing your salt intake, you NEED to lower your taste for salt. Otherwise, it will be a life-long battle that will make you miserable. 

If you are not sure how to do this, if you have tried before and didn't keep up with it, if cooking is not your thing, or if you don’t know where to even start, feel free to send me a message and I can give you a few pointers. We can also chat over Zoom if getting personalized support would help you be healthier and happier. Request a Free Discovery Session today, and let's see what the best path forward would be for you to live a healthier life.


eat less salt, healthy foods, healthy habits, salt, sodium

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None of my services or recommendations are intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness or disease. The information I provide should not take the place of advice from your medical professional, licensed dietitian or nutritionist. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices. I cannot guarantee the outcome of my services or suggestions. My comments are expressions of my personal opinion only. 

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