# Why can we eat salty food, but can't stomach salty water?

I know that too much sodium is bad for our health. However, it struck me as odd that we like to add salt to pasta sauce or other foods we eat, yet trying to drink salt water can bring on the gag reflex.

Is this because sea water is many times more salty than the salt we would add to our food? Or is there another reason?

• Seawater is equivalent to adding a bit more than an entire tablespoon (17.5 mL) of salt to a 16oz (~500 mL) glass. If you're dumping that much salt onto your pasta sauce, I'd recommend you not skip the annual physical this year :p. Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 19:23
• Not sure everyone experience a gag reflex when drinking sea water. Do you have a reference that this (claim) actually happens, before we try to find out why? (That it's unhealthy to drink/eat that much salt is another matter.) Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 18:32

## 1 Answer

Seawater is many times more salty than the "pinch" of salt that is often recommended to add to cooked dishes.

According to the USGS

the concentration of salt in seawater (salinity) is about 35 parts per thousand. In other words, about 35 of 1,000 (3.5%) of the weight of seawater comes from the dissolved salts

To translate that to a typical glass of water: seawater is equivalent to adding a bit more than an entire tablespoon (17.5 mL) of salt to a 16oz (~500 mL) glass!

By the way, 1 tablespoon of salt is about 7100 mg. To put that into perspective, you'd have to consume almost two entire 8-cut pizzas (using Domino's as a reference) or more than 7 McDonald BigMac cheeseburgers to consume that same amount of salt.

In fact, consuming 7,100 mg of salt would more than triple the recommended amount for daily intake. According to the FDA:

Americans eat on average about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt!

• Thanks for the answer. I would never have guessed seawater had such a high concentration of salt. Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 0:34