A Very Short History of Salt

For people trying to reduce their salt intake for better heart health, it’s hard to believe that salt just isn’t necessary.

Clearly, sodium occurs naturally in many foods. There is ample sodium to meet our dietary needs in fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats. But somehow, we can’t resist adding more salt.

The USDA recommends a daily sodium intake of 2,300 mg. Most countries have established recommendations of 2,000 mg. But the average salt consumption in the Uniter States is 4,500 mg per day!

How did we get here?

Widespread use of salt dates back about 5,000 years. Salt was mostly used as a preservative, rather than for flavoring. It was incredibly valuable, and empires rose and fell based on the salt trade. In fact, in the 6th century Persian Empire, salt was worth its weight in gold – so clearly, most people weren’t sprinkling it on their eggs!

It wasn’t until the 18th or 19th century that salt became inexpensive enough to be used by common people to flavor their food. But from that point forward, the addiction to salt grew!

When the United States was facing a rising epidemic of goiter in the 1920’s, the government was looking for a way to get people to consume iodine. The solution was to add iodine to salt – because by that time, virtually everyone used salt in their meals.

The point here is simple: for tens of thousands of years, people prepared delicious meals without salt. It’s only in very recent times – perhaps the last couple of hundred years – that salt became commonplace.

Today, because salt is so inexpensive, it’s become a “quick fix” to boost the flavor of all sorts of dishes. (That’s why restaurants loads their meals with salt. It’s fast and cheap.) So most people have become addicted to the taste of salt. Sodium takes a horrible toll on our health, but many people wouldn’t think of doing without salt.

Our advice is to recognize salt as a harmful addiction. And the best way to deal with an addiction is to cut it out.

Throw away your salt! Never add it while cooking.

When shopping for prepared products, like sauces or packaged meals, find the lowest possible sodium content. This may require ordering online or shopping at health food outlets, so see our grocery recommendations.

Learn how to use other spices to flavor your dishes. It’s not hard; people cooked without salt for thousands of years!

In one to two months, you’ll stop missing salt. You’ll begin to taste real food again! And best of all, you’ll be taking a huge step to improve your heart health.