Many of the current health guidelines stress limiting the intake of salt (referred to as sodium on nutrition labels) as a means of reducing adverse health outcomes, particularly strokes and heart attacks. The current guidelines in the US recommend limiting salt intake to less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day and less than 1,500 mg in high-risk individuals.
However, recent research, including a large study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, disputes these findings.
The study authors looked at data from over two dozen studies investigating salt intake and mortality, especially from heart disease. Data included over 250,000 people, both healthy and with underlying diseases. What they found was that people who consumed the least amount of sodium (less than 2,645 mg daily) as well as the most (over 4,945 mg), had higher rates of mortality and cardiovascular disease by roughly 10-15%.
What does this mean for us? It so happens that for the most part, the saltiest foods are ones that are processed and unhealthy anyway. These include canned foods and soups, instant meals, chips, many breads, cured meats, etc. One way you can tell is by looking at the nutrition labels. Any food that has more than 150-200 mg of sodium per serving is on the high side (note that some canned soups can have up to 1,000mg!). By cutting down on processed foods, which are anyway unhealthy, you automatically reduce excess salt in your diet. After that, if you like to add a pinch of salt here and there, it’s unlikely to be a big deal.
The only caveat I have is for people with certain medical problems such as heart failure or kidney disease. They should follow the advice of their doctors and nutritionists.