Just as we’ve dived into the hot topic of honey on a carnivore diet, we are now diving in to another addition to an ancestral way of eating, salt. While salt may seem like a small, simple season to your meat-only or primarily meat diet, the opinions greatly vary as to whether or not salt is essential on a carnivore diet.
We believe in the goal of eating as our ancestors did; no processed food, prizing meat as the priority meal, and eating proportional cuts of meat to the “catch of the day.” This belief falls in line with the tenants of all carnivore-adjacent diets including paleo, primal, and animal-based eaters. With this tenant set, we explore whether or not salt was sought out by our ancestors, touch on perspectives for and against salt, and break down what minerals look like on a low carb diet below.
For the portion of the carnivore and carnivore-adjacent communities that don’t rely on salt, the primary perspective for omitting it from your diet is that additional salt is not needed beyond the trace amounts already found in meat. Seeking out additions to your meal beyond meat is viewed as not necessary, and this includes salt.
While many prominent figures that are stricter carnivores include salt (think Mikhaila Peterson’s Lion Diet of meat, salt, and water, or Shawn Baker’s steak, eggs), it does not appear that it was sought out by our ancestors on a regular basis.
A systematic review of salt consumption in the long transition from hunter-gatherer to farming and industrialized ways of life indicate that additional salt was not consumed anywhere near the quantities it is today.
Pulling from the above review and according to MacGregor and de Wardener, “For 5 million years, …our ancestors added no salt to their diet. Nowadays, such a diet would be considered very low in salt. This was the diet of all mammals during evolution, and they were fairly adapted to it. Humans, like other mammals, relied on the small amounts of salt naturally present in food to regulate the amount of fluid in the body. Very powerful mechanisms for conserving salt within the body were developed.”
The systematic review goes on to discuss how salt can be an addictive substance which makes it a tricky component to monitor on your diet or to wean yourself off of.
The Study: Read the full effects of salt addictions here.
Zero Carb Health goes on to support the dangers of salt addiction, especially conventional table salt can include harmful additives, and is usually extremely over processed.
The negatives effects of over consuming salt may include:
- Salt is an additive beyond what our ancestors would have instinctually consumed.
- Convenient sources of salt are of poor quality at best, and can do more harm than good.
- Salt can damage your skin and interfere with fat metabolism.
Isabella Ma, known as Steak and Butter Girl on YouTube, is a proponent for avoiding salt on the carnivore diet, and dives into FAQs about salt and her experiment with including and removing salt from her diet in the video below.
Salting Your Food
While the above take on eating additional salt beyond what meat provides above may be ancestrally congruent, ancestral eaters that incorporate a modern and individual take on their meat-based diet choose to include salt as advocates for the addition to the diet. This not only pertains to salt, but can also pertain to other trace minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
The idea behind adding salt and other trace minerals to your diet comes from the biological breakdown of essential vitamin and mineral minimum requirements that you need. Sodium is “one of the body's electrolytes, which are minerals that the body needs in relatively large amounts. Electrolytes carry an electric charge when dissolved in body fluids such as blood.
Most of the body’s sodium is located in blood and in the fluid around cells. Sodium helps the body keep fluids in a normal balance…[and] plays a key role in normal nerve and muscle function.”
Your body, and more specifically your kidneys, are particularly evolved to maintain a proper level of salt (homeostasis), and can filter out any excess sodium intake as needed.
Salt can also be particularly advantageous for those transitioning onto a carnivore diet to help reduce common negative side effects, with the most prominent one being known as “Keto Flu” or “Carnivore Flu.” This happens when your body transitions from carbohydrates as the main source of fuel and has to learn to transition to fat as the main source of fuel and energy. During this time, your body experiences three primary changes; water and sodium flushing, increased cortisol levels, and a potential decrease in T3 thyroid hormones. Common symptoms during this “flu” include headaches, cramping, brain fog, fatigue, and insomnia for up to 30 days during the energy source transition. Supplementing with high quality electrolytes and salt (options linked further below) can help during this transition time onto a carnivore or carnivore-adjacent diet.
The positive effects of over consuming salt may include:
- Meeting the minimum daily sodium and electrolyte biological needs
- Easing the transition onto a carnivore diet
- Adding salt to taste to enhance the palatability of meat
Sourcing High Quality Salt & Electrolytes
If you do choose to consume salt and electrolytes as part of your ancestral way of eating, it’s important to fully inform yourself on salt and purchase high-quality sources of minerals.
Further reading: The Salt Fix by Dr. James DiNicolantonio
Judo Cho, a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, advocates for salt and balancing your electrolytes on a carnivore or carnivore adjacent diet in the video below.
While there are many takes on salt in the carnivore community and those on their path to finding their individual primal diet, we strive to cater to the entire community by offering both salt and no-salt carnivore bar options!