Sodium / Potassium in the Modern and Primal diets


A question arouse in our delving into the world of Keto. SALT !
Traditionally we love salt but had until recently (Keto) been trying to not overdo it. In reading up on Keto, there is a distinct general affinity with upping the sodium and potassium intakes.
We have been doing that and no issues as yet. But, a question arises, if the Keto / Primal ? etc diets are derived from ancient human food habits, then why is these such a thing on upping the sodium and potassium intake. Ancient peoples dont appear to have had access let alone the need to use copious amounts of salts. So two questions:

1 - Whats the science/reason behind such a Na & K difference in ancient food and modern Keto eating trends ? No doubt some ancient foods were nutritionally rich, but cans see the maths here.

2 - Some proponents of Keto say there should be a 4:1 ratio of K to Na. If so, then thats a heck of a lot of K, as well as a lot of Na. Is there science to back this up & whats forms of K are suggested, we are using Cream of Tartar at the moment.

I read some of the other posts on Sodium on the forum, but they seemed to be a couple of years old, so thought this needed a fresh topic.

The salts issue is about the only thing that does not seem to fit in with Keto being a natural primal eating habit.



A reply I saw to a similar question:

“They ate the entirety of the animal. They ate blood. They ate offal. Their meat was not stripped of electrolytes in modern processing plants prior to shipping. The plants they scavenged grew in soil that was not depleted with decades of continuous farming. They drink water from rivers and runoff that was carrying sedimentary minerals downstream. They likely also used things like salt licks, just like other animals.”

Keep in mind that salt used to be an important traded commodity in civilizations. To the extent it was actually used as money (i.e. “not worth his salt”). It’s the origin of the word salary.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #3

This is a very interesting discussion about the ratio of sodium and potassium. Make of it what you will.



Thanks, quite a read. Some very interesting info on the role of Potassium in the diet, both ancient and current. It would be good to find some current articles 20 years on.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #5

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #6


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #7



Thats a handy database. I had downloaded US nutritional data in xls format & my office program crashes each time I try to open it :slight_smile:


Fits perfect, when you eat tons of organs and blood, your sodium/potassium levels would be through the roof!

(Butter Withaspoon) #10

Thanks Michael! I have some reading to do. Your studies and info are much appreciated


True. Like the Masai :slight_smile:

I used to like Black pubbing as a kid, then for some reason that disapearred from the diet for many decades only to discover it again when travelling in Ireland 8 years ago.


“Glacial milk” - the rivers flowing out of the mountains in the Himalaya can be very mineralised.

(Bob M) #13

If you sous vide your meat, such as steak, a trick is to drink the juice that is in the bag. I do this often.

(Laurie) #14

Thanks, @ctviggen. I dislike soups and gravies, but drinking the juices in a cup is painless. I just wasn’t sure whether there was much nutrition in the liquid.

I’ve noticed that loose ground beef (cooked in oven or stove top) reabsorbs the juices if you let it stand a bit after cooking.

(Old Baconian) #15

A few thoughts:

First, the PURE study, and another one published around the same time (the name of which I forget), which was two or three years ago, both determined that the healthiest range of sodium intake was 4-6 g/day, which translates to 10-15 g/day of sodium chloride (table salt).

Second, it is known that a high-carbohydrate diet causes the kidneys to slow their excretion of sodium. Embarking on a low-carb diet causes the kidneys to return to their normal, higher rate of sodium excretion. (Lack of sodium is the cause of the symptoms known as the “keto flu.”)

Thirdly, the experience of long-term carnivores is that most of them at some point stopped adding salt to their food, since apparently the salt already present in their meat is sufficient for their needs. (No one is sure how or why this happens.)

Lastly, it is clear that our ancestors knew about their need for salt. Many traditional societies, back when they were living on their traditional diets, were quite aware of where the animals in their range went to find salt licks. Classical antiquity saw a thriving trade in the mineral, and the word “salary” is supposed to be derived from the the salt allowance given to Roman soldiers.

Given that the body’s regulatory mechanisms for calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are all inter-related, and given that salt intake is the easiest to control, getting our salt intake in the proper range helps keep the others balanced, as well, without too much concern for supplementation.

As for your concerns about balancing sodium and potassium, I would tread very carefully. Disruptions of potassium can be deadly, whether hypo- or hyperkalaemia. The experience of re-feeding concentration-camp survivors after World War II showed that the potassium balance is easily disrupted. Unfortunately, many of the people suffering from re-feeding syndrome died, until doctors figured out what was going on, and how to treat it.

(Bob M) #16

I got this from Amber O’Hearn, so it’s not my idea.

You can also make a sauce with it, but whenever I do this and pop it into a pan, it gets “scum” on it, that quite doesn’t go away.

So, I’ve just been drinking it.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #17

@PaulL Check out the discussion I linked above between Passwater and Moore. Moore’s assertion is that our paleolithic ancestors consumed far less sodium and much more potassium from all food sources. Consequently, they had a much higher K:Na ratio than currently. In fact, his argument is that humans evolved in a low sodium and high potassium environment and that elevated sodium causes many health issues.

From this study I linked above:

…This effect of the Western diet is not solely attributed to high sodium content but rather the dramatically decreased dietary potassium-to-sodium ratio. In industrialized countries, the daily intakes of potassium and sodium are ≈30 to 50 and 80 to 250 mmol per day, respectively. This is in sharp contrast with isolated or primitive societies, having the daily rates of 150 to 290 mmol for potassium and 20 to 40 mmol per day for sodium.5 Therefore, estimated potassium-to-sodium intake ratios range from 0.12 to 0.63 for industrialized societies and 3.8 to 14.5 for isolated societies. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, only about one tenth of US adults have potassium-to-sodium intake ratios consistent with the World Health Organization guidelines for reduced risk of mortality.6

(Old Baconian) #18

Staruschenko’s article contrasts SAD with a diet of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which you have argued in many posts is not the diet on which we evolved. If he had included a reference to the diet of the Maasai and other tribal societies that ate a diet of mostly meat, and had discussed their rates of hypertension, I’d be more inclined to finish reading the article.

In the interview with Moore, they assert that the potassium/sodium ratio is the cause of all metabolic diseases, but I have never seen that asserted before, and I would like to see some evidence and a plausible mechanism before accepting that. The reading I’ve done up till now suggests the interference of elevated insulin as a mechanism for causing the so-called “diseases of civilisation.” The various mechanisms by which insulin acts are highly plausible (e.g., interference with NO production being the root cause of hypertension, etc.), especially in combination with the historical data (for example, gout, Type II diabetes, and dental caries were commonly found only in those who could afford sugar, until mechanically refined sugar became cheap enough for the masses to afford).

The Nutrition Data link is not working for me, so I can’t comment on it.

(Bob M) #19

Yeah, how much potassium are the Maasai and Hazda getting, relative to sodium? And are there studies like this? My guess: probably not.


I usually fry and roast things or make a stew so no matter what animal, I don’t get extra liquid, even if there is a little when I make roasted pork, it gets jellied so nicely, it’s fun to eat :wink:
But I usually eat all the meat anyway, I eat the whole pig heart too, even the chewy, odd parts, I just cut those off and ground it first :wink: The cats would love those parts, surely but they don’t get it :smiley: They get bones after I made soup with them (they always contains not very little meat I can’t get off quickly enough).

Sodium is an interesting topic. For some reason, some people need much and others need little. And surely some people don’t seem to mind any reasonable amount… I only experienced an upper limit for myself as I never went very low, my taste requires 4-5g salt a day and that seems to be enough for me since many years, no matter my actual woe. But I just eat according to taste, I couldn’t really control my salt intake even if I wanted. I wonder if longer term carnivore will make it way lower as for some people… I already eat my carnivore food less salty as before.

Maybe I should figure out my potassium intake, I haven’t the vaguest idea about it, I just know the recommended amount is high and that the recommended amounts of nutrients may be very far from our needs on our individual diet.