I Tried To Go Without Salt For A Week And You Can Have My Salt When You Pry It From My Bloated Hands

I dip popcorn in soy sauce. My favorite foods are olives, pickles and cured meats. Without sodium chloride, I would start killing everyone.
Publish date:
May 30, 2013
xoFood, science, salt, heart disease, American Heart Association, M

I don’t know how familiar you kittens are with "Star Trek," but I’m pretty familiar with it. I’ve seen every single episode of Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and most of the original movies, but I am JUST NOW watching the original series, which is frankly egregious. Besides being super sexist, this show is wildly entertaining. The pilot kind of sucked, but the only character that carried over to the series was Spock, so fine. Also, I’ll never fucking watch Enterprise, because theme song.


Anyway, in the first non-pilot episode, there is this creature that can transform into anyone/thing it wishes and then uses its sucker hands to draw all the salt out of your body. I mean, this is supposed to only happen if it ran out of salt tabs (which it had not), but it was REALLY CLOSE TO BEING OUT OF SALT TABS, so it just started killing everyone.

Basically, I am this creature.

I will put salt on anything and everything, like oranges! Fruit with salt is so good. Salt on melon? It will change your existence. My grandmother taught me how to do this thing where you squeeze lemon on an ice cube and then sprinkle salt on it and it too is very tasty.

Now that I’m thinking about it though it sounds like some kind of weird diet trick, so I’ll have to ask her about that later.

But sinceriously (sincerely+seriously), I am this creature. My college roommate gave me an artisanal salt sampler from Williams-Sonoma as a wedding gift and Sean used to catch me eating straight from the fancy glass jars. I dip popcorn in soy sauce. My favorite foods are olives, pickles and cured meats. Without sodium chloride, I would start killing everyone with my sucker hands.

But according to the American Heart Association, I am doing life wrong. The AMA suggests that I only consume 1,500 mg or less of sodium per day or else I will get heart disease because of all the extra liquid.

I tried to see if I could do this for a week. I eliminated table salt from my meals and only consumed foods that had less than 140 mg per serving. This is what I ate those fateful first three days:

Day One (I started at supper time on Tuesday)

  • Pork with collard greens, rice, ginger, vinegar
  • Multigrain Cheerios with whole milk

Notes from the field: Since I couldn't have any salt, I tried to compensate with other flavors I like, such as acid and ginger. This resulted in me heating a large amount of vinegar, causing the acetic acid to vaporize into my face in a most alarming manner. So, that was cool.

Day Two (Wednesday)

I always go out for lunch with co-workers on Wednesday. We ended up going to Sonny’s Barbeque. This is the story of my struggle:

  • Too much coffee!
  • Coconut Water Tropical Beverage (trying to get other electrolytes)
  • Sonny’s quarter chicken (I peeled off its skin), broccoli, sweet potato (with plain butter)
  • Unsweet Tea
  • Leftover acid pork and greens with brown rice and two fried eggs (eggs contain 50-60 mg of sodium)
  • Unsalted almonds
  • Low-sodium peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Day Three (Thursday)

  • Coconut Water Tropical Beverage
  • Coffee
  • PB&J, 3 cuties
  • Chocolate eggs

And then I don’t know because I got a raging headache and was all “Fuck this.”

I did not make it a week (obviously). I tried to start again, but BOOM MORE HEADACHES, so I think my body was telling me “Hey asshole, you live in Florida and are a really sweaty person so maybe quit limiting your electrolytes.”

Probably a more reasonable approach to this would be to just quit buying pre-packaged foods that contain butt loads of sodium (also Doritos tacos). This would result in me not only lowering my sodium, but also eating more whole foods. According to this groovy AMA quiz you can take, 75% of your deadly sodium take is from pre-packaged foods anyway, and according to this book I have not yet read, food companies use salt as mind control or something. I’m also assuming that book was written by a kidnapper, because go look at the cover.

But why do we even like salt so much? Sensory science is complicated (the scientists aren't even sure what’s going on), but what gleaned from this article is salt helps to mask bitter and off flavors (which is why manufacturers dump it into processed foods), while intensifying the overall flavor experience. One way sodium chloride does this is by decreasing the water activity, which allows flavor compounds to volatilize more easily. When these compounds volatilize, you smell them, which contributes greatly to flavor.


Am I going to die of heart disease? Well, my blood pressure is fine, and these people seem to think that I can go CRAZY and consume up to 2,300 mg of sodium A DAY. I’m going to be honest, even though this study is telling me what I want to hear, they provide a lot more compelling information than the opposing side. Most interestingly:

"One 2008 study the committee examined, for example, randomly assigned 232 Italian patients with aggressively treated moderate to severe congestive heart failure to consume either 2,760 or 1,840 milligrams of sodium a day, but otherwise to consume the same diet. Those consuming the lower level of sodium had more than three times the number of hospital readmissions — 30 as compared with 9 in the higher-salt group — and more than twice as many deaths — 15 as compared with 6 in the higher-salt group."

This seems to indicate that I can eat some pickles.

I liiiiiiiiive for pickles.

So maybe I’m not the most unbiased researcher when it comes to this matter. But this is a matter of the HEART my kittens. I see it this way: I could use salt to flavor my vegetables (and other whole foods), and actually eat them. Conversely, I could try and not use salt and not eat vegetables because they would just taste bitter and then I would probably have to set myself on fire, because what is the point of living anyway?

Those are really my only options.

Now, who wants an extra dirty martini?

Claire be tweetin': @clairelizzie.