Should I completely eliminate salt from my diet?

Cecil’s column is interesting but leaves me wondering something.

Since I’ve become a cooking show fanatic, especially a big fan of Food Network’s “Good Eats,” I almost never use table salt. I use kosher salt in all my cooking, and kosher salt has no iodine in it. And I don’t salt my food after cooking because I get the seasoning right the first time.

Am I slowly killing myself by leaving out this important micronutrient? Or is the salt used in most prepared foods iodized, so I pick up my iodine in the occasional bag of Doritos?

– Chris.

In the article, Mr. Adams says that you will die a horrible death if you cut salt completly from your diet.

So what would happen? What are the details of that horrible death?

I think salt used commercially is iodized. Logically, since plain ol’ iodized salt is the cheapest salt, that’s probably what they use. Plus, there are plenty of people who don’t add table salt to their food at all (I used to be one of them), and when’s the last time you saw someone walking around with a goiter?

As far as the horrible death, Cecil left something out about salt itself. With too little salts in the system, your electrolytes get all messed up. (Sodium is one of the electrolytes we need.) Having your electrolytes messed up makes your head go wonky. Happens to older people pretty regularly, though I think it’s usually potassium salts they are getting too little of, not sodium. Interestingly, babies have died from electrolyte imbalances because of drinking too much water over a short period of time. Adults can die that way too. (Normal drinking won’t do it.) I’d cite a source, but I’m super busy and should get back to work. :smiley:

From the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Seventeenth Version:

Have fun!

I’m pretty sure I have a goiter. It runs all the way around my waist and it’s giving me a couple of extra chins, too. Damned goiter!

I’m certain Cecil covered overdosing on water in a column, but the search is wonky – too little salt, perhaps?

Wait, Google turns it up:

– Chris.

I saw a 20/20 program that said something to the effect that less than 2% of the population has a problem with salt, and that the claims that salt are harmful are not supported by scientific evidence.

A link to the column is appreciated. Providing one can be as simple as pasting the URL into your post. Like so: Should I completely eliminate salt from my diet?
URL: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_217.html

If you eat seafood regularly you’re probably not in much danger of getting goiter. Edible seaweed like kelp is also an excellent source. I notice you live in New York, crywalt. Chances are that much of the fresh produce you buy in the summer has plenty of iodine if grown in the iodine-rich soils found in most of Long Island and New Jersey. In the days before iodized salt it was mainly people living far from salt water eating exclusively local produce who were at danger of goiter.

Will do.

I eat sushi pretty regularly. Iodine good, mercury bad. Oh well.

I guess this means I don’t have a goiter. What is all this extra mass I’m carrying around, then?

– Chris.

That’s a goter. As in, goter the gym more often.

That’s good. Much better than my weak goiter jokes.

Didn’t Bert Weedon do a “Play in a Day” goiter tutor?

http://www.bertweedon.com/

Should I completely eliminate salt from my diet?
URL: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_217.html

These days Iodine gets into most people’s diets from milk and milk products. The sanitizing process for the dairy equipment left a residue. For a while there were fears it would poison people there was so much. The dairy sanitizing industry has cut way back, but still sometimes I can taste it in my local milk. Also there are other sources. Eliminating salt, or even using non iodized salt no longer is an issue, there are enough other sources for iodine. Do a Google search for “iodine in milk.”

This is really interesting. I found a British study at http://archive.food.gov.uk/maff/archive/food/infsheet/1997/no128/128milk.htm which notes that iodine levels in milk had risen between 1984 to 1994, so much so that in the winter (when milk iodine levels are highest, as this study found) young children are possibly getting too much iodine.

Also interesting is the fact that no one knows how much iodine is too much. This is what I come to the Straight Dope for.

– Chris.

I saw that thing on 20/20 and believed it…until I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. And I do mean high. With a systolic and diastolic pressure both over 200, my doctors were surprised that I was still walking around and asymptomatic. I should have been spouting blood like a sprinkler with pressure like that.

Over the past 2 years, I have been through almost every test done for my condition in order to determine a course of treatment. The most fun was the MRI with a diuretic in my system to check my kidney functions. Nothing like coming within 2 seconds of pissing yourself in a backless paper gown to make you appreciate modern plumbing- I never could have made it to an outhouse.

Aaaaanywho-while I have a couple of different factors contributing to my hypertension, the #1 factor has turned out to be my sodium intake. According to my doc, the average American gets between 8000-12000mg of sodium per day. Notice “sodium” not salt-that’s key. I never added salt to my food, and I was still up around 5000mg. Why? Because things like salt and other sodium based chemicals are used as preservatives, and MSG and at least 2 other flavor enhancers are sodium based, and it all adds up. My doc put me on a powerful diuretic and a 2000mg/day diet that is an utter bitch, but my BP is almost normal, and I lost 20lbs in water weight in 2 weeks.

Want a window into my diet? Look in your pantry at your canned food, and check the sodium content per serving, then check the servings per can. Want more fun? Check out ANYONE’S Macaroni & Cheese.

The problem with salt is that it contains loads of sodium, but no potassium. These two elements are both critically important for the proper functioning of the heart, and the ratio of these two is key. The ratio has pretty much overturned since the unlimited access to salt became a reality in the Standard Western Diet - put simply, we get on average far too much sodium and not nearly enough potassium. You get potassium from fish, certain greens and nuts. For the massive overdose of sodium each day, you’d have to eat loads and loads of these foods. Most of us don’t, which leads to - along with obesity, lack of excercise and bad genes - heart disease.

As for the claims about salt’s harmlesness, I’ve read that those researchers were ( and are) hired by the salt industry - very convincing.

Actually, I had a pretty good diet as far as most people go. My problem was overeating, not eating the wrong stuff. I love fish geens and nuts- eating a serving of one or the other at least once a day, usually more. And bannannas rock!

However, due to the meds I’m on, K (potassium for those who don’t know) flies out of my body like mad. So, on top of everything else, I’m on a potassium supplement. My daily dose is about the equivalent of 40 bannannas, and though I’d much rather get my nutrients naturally, being around me after 2 bannannas is…not advisable. 40 would get the Bush admin. looking for me as a WMD.

At this point, owning an old banana peel would have the Bush administration classifying you as a WMD.

– Chris (“I know how to spell ‘banana,’ I just don’t know when to stop.”)

If that’s the case, can’t we just use a proper mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride for seasoning?

Potassium is very bad for you in relatively small amounts:

I was surprised by the implied reasoning in the column: we need iodine, salt has iodine, therefore we need salt. I’d expect a better grasp on logic from Cecil. Also, I’ve heard that KI tablets are widely available. Would that kill two birds with one stone?