Harley Pasternak: Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared of Salt

06/18/2014 at 12:35 PM ET

SaltCourtesy Harley Pasternak, Kristin Duvall/Getty

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

It’s okay to get a little salty sometimes…

As the demonization of dietary sodium continues, it seems that we may have overdone our under-salting of foods.

The recommendation for adults of less than 1,500mg of sodium per day is based on preventing hypertension, which sodium has been proven to cause. However, a recent meta-analysis (an analysis of several studies looking at the same topic) out of Denmark found that current CDC-recommended sodium guidelines may be too low.

One study that the Danish researchers analyzed, recently published in the American Journal of Hypertension, examined 25 previous salt studies and found that individuals who consume lower levels of salt may have a higher risk of death. The article explained that, while very high levels of salt intake (above 12,000mg per day) may have fatal consequences, the safest range may be between 2,600 and 4,950mg per day (way beyond the 1,500mg currently endorsed by the CDC).

My view is that the problem is more about the types of foods we eat that supply the majority of our dietary salt intake — processed foods like pizza, frozen entrées and packaged snacks. Such foods are responsible for about 75 percent of our sodium consumption, according to the American Heart Association. Coincidentally, these are often foods that are already unhealthy and easily overeaten.

Here are some examples of unhealthy salty sources, and healthy salty foods:

Not-so-healthy salty foods:
Lean Cuisine Shrimp Alfredo Frozen Entrée (630mg per entrée)
Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Honey Ham (510mg per serving)
Pizza Hut medium pan pepperoni pizza (660mg per slice)
Prego Traditional Tomato Sauce (480mg per half cup)
Maruchan Instant Lunch: Chicken Flavor (1,190mg per container)

Healthy salty foods:
Chicken breast (91mg per breast)
Shrimp (260mg per 5 large shrimp)
The Good Bean Roasted Chickpeas, sea salt flavor (185mg per 1-oz. serving)
Zico Coconut Water (90mg per 11.2-oz. serving)
Celery (96mg per 3 medium stalks)
Carrots (84mg per 2 medium carrots)

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sigh on

the salty foods he mentions are not salty.

Ty on

Yeah…undersalting our food…what a joke. I can’t even have any extra salt in my food because of my health problems. Thank you, but I’d actually like to live than risk my life by salting my food.

Zach on

You say this after I just read that horror story of the bad mother who killed her son by feeding him too much salt!

Lisa on

You’d be surprised how much sodium is in processed food, especially in foods that DON’T taste salty. I had to start checking labels due to a health crisis and advice from the doctor–I was shocked by the amount of sodium in items I never considered “salty”.

It’s the hidden sodium that’s a dangerous culprit compromising our health. Until you start really looking closely, you have no idea how bad it is.

Anonymous on

I’m not sure what Harley’s point is. He says our sodium ceiling could possibly be a lot higher than we think it is. Then he says high sodium processed food is bad and that foods with a lower sodium content are better choices. Well, duh! Some days I think Harley has a hard time finding a relevant topic.

Guest on

Still don’t know how much salt should have in a day after reading it. Some articles say this range, the other articles have a different range.

Al Brenneman on

This is like saying restricting your cigarrett consumption to five, instead of twenty per day is healthy. That’s not how it works. Salt is a killer.

gh on

Salt is a necessary function of our body. It helps balance electrolytes, maintains thyroid levels, and provides adequate levels of necessary mineral. That being said, we are not talking about your typical refined table salt. this salt is processed and stripped of it’s natural minerals. Stay away from “white salt” including sea salt. Instead chose unrefined gray sea salt or pink Himalayan salt.

Kendra on

I don’t know the mechanics/physiology of sodium on the kidneys leading to hypertension, but I do know that if I add salt (even a little) to my food my blood pressure immediately goes up. It only takes about 30 minutes & I can feel my blood pumping through my body & I’ll have a raging headache. Since I know I’m not the only one out there with this problem I would suggest anyone with high blood pressure not add salt to anything. To season food use no-salt Mrs. Dash or something similar. Some people don’t realize that high blood pressure leads to heart & kidney problems and none of us want to go there. I do agree processed foods usually have high salt or potassium & it’s best to stay away from them.

Kassie on

How about you just stop eating processed crap…

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