How much salt do I need?

While a low salt diet has been recommended for decades, the relationship between low salt and health isn’t as clear as once thought. Some research suggests a low salt diet can increase your risk of insulin resistance and paradoxically, hypertension. It can also affect your sympathetic nervous system, increasing fatigue, sleep quality and exhaustion.

Salt is made up of two molecules: sodium and chloride. Sodium is an essential electrolyte that helps maintain the balance of water in and around your cells. It’s important for muscle and nerve function and helps maintain normal blood pressure. Symptoms of low sodium can vary depending on the person. If your sodium levels fall gradually, you may not experience any symptoms. If they drop very quickly, your symptoms may be more severe. Things to look out for are:

  • fatigue or weakness
  • headaches
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • muscle cramps
  • confusion and/or irritability


Don’t forget potassium!
Potassium and sodium work closely together. In fact adequate potassium is protective against stroke and heart disease. Getting enough potassium can also lower your blood pressure too. The recommended sodium intake in Australia is less than 2,500mg. However an individual may need more than this due to reasons as mentioned above. Those on a ketogenic diet usually do best from 3,000 to 5,000mg per day.
 

How do I know if I’m getting enough salt?
A good place to start is adding 'salt to taste' to your food. Remember some food is already high in salt (cheese, bacon and other cured meats and most processed foods). If you are unsure, ask your practitioner about the right amount of salt for you.

If you do a lot of exercise or are adapting to a ketogenic diet (and suffering with the 'keto flu') the following electrolyte recipe can help replace those essential molecules to keep the body in balance.


Sugar Free Electrolyte Drink

½ level teaspoon (tsp) of salt (sodium chloride)
½ level teaspoon (tsp) of salt substitute (potassium chloride)
½ level teaspoon (tsp) of baking soda, dissolved into
4 cups (1 litre) of water

OR

1 level teaspoon (tsp) of ‘Lite Salt’ (50% sodium chloride and 50% potassium chloride)
½ level teaspoon (tsp) of baking soda, dissolved into
4 cups (1 litre) of water

* Lite Salt is sold in most supermarkets as a salt substitute. You can use it as you would any other salt - adding to taste or in cooking.

The above information is not intended to replace medical advice. If you have been prescribed a sodium restricted diet by your medical doctor, please head this advice.