In the past 50 years, there has been a raging controversy around salt. The medical community generally believes that over consumption leads to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. Indeed, there are a plethora of studies to confirm this. However, most of the research on salt is done on refined salt, not on natural, unprocessed sea salt.
Salt comes in the form of sodium chloride, two elements that combine to create something unique and essential for our bodies. Yet, there is a huge difference between conventional refined table salt and unprocessed natural sea salt.
Salt is a dietary mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride. Biologically speaking, salt plays a major role in human health.
• It controls the amount of water within the body and maintains the critical balance between cells and body fluids.
• In conjunction with water, it helps to regulate blood pressure.
• It is essential for the contraction and relaxation of muscles and the prevention of muscle cramps.
• It is responsible for maintaining the acid-alkaline balance within the body.
• It helps transmit nerve impulses.
• It serves as a vital ingredient of blood plasma and digestive secretion like hydrochloric acid.
• It aids in balancing blood sugar levels.
• It helps make the structure of bones firm – 22% of the body’s salt is in the bones.
Why People Think Salt Is Bad
The problem with salt is not the salt itself, but what has been done to the salt. Salt is generally obtained from two sources – rock salt from land mines and sea salt from the ocean or salty lakes.
Land-mined salt contains about 98% sodium chloride and the remaining 2% is composed of iron, calcium, and smaller amounts of aluminum and strontium. The commonly found refined table salt comes from land-mined salt. Other variations of table salt include iodized salt, popcorn salt, pickling salt, pretzel salt, rock salt, and seasoned salt.
The reason why salt has acquired a bad reputation is because manufacturers, in order to make salt whiter, dryer, and easier to pour, remove all the minerals and nutrients from salt and instead add some unsavory ingredients to it. The sodium from this type of refined salt often remains in the body long after it has done its job, causing joints to swell and kidney problems to develop.
Additives in refined table salt —
• Anti-caking chemicals, some of which are aluminum-based. Aluminum is linked with heavy metal toxicity and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
• Dextrose (sugar) is added to iodized salt to stabilize the iodine and keep it from turning purple.
• Sodium silico-aluminate, which is associated with kidney problems and mineral malabsorption
• Sodium acetate, which is associated with elevated blood pressure, kidney disturbances, and water retention.
Sea salt, on the other hand, is natural and unprocessed. It contains about 85% sodium chloride, plus important minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These trace minerals in quality unprocessed sea salt is extremely beneficial to the body, serving many important regulatory and nutritional functions.
Sea salt comes in both fine and coarse grains. They come in many different varieties such as black salt, flake salt, Fleur de Sel, French sea salt, grey salt, grinder salt, Hawaiian sea salt, Italian sea salt, Kala Namak, kosher salt, and smoked sea salt.
Why America Has A Problem With Salt
Most current guidelines for sodium consumption are less than 2,300 mg a day, or approximately one teaspoon of refined salt, but the average American takes in 4,000-5,000 mg of sodium a day. When you look at where the sodium comes from, you will understand the source of the problem – refined salt in processed foods. Over 90% of the money that people spend on food is for processed food.
Sources of sodium in American diet —
• 77% from processed foods
• 12% from natural sources (meats, nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products)
• 6% added while eating
• 5% added while cooking
Processed foods include canned vegetables, soups, luncheon meats, and frozen foods. Food manufacturers use salt and other sodium-containing chemicals to preserve food and to improve the taste and texture of food. Food scientists have found that by adding excess salt, sugar, and fat to a food, people tend to overeat. Have you ever wondered why you can never eat just one or two potato chips?
Therefore, when you eat a lot of processed foods, you are automatically consuming more sodium than your body calls for. To make it worse, the refined salt used in processed foods is void of nutrients and full of unsavory additives. Given time, excess sodium in your body will lead to a host of health issues, including fluid retention, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and kidney diseases.
Some people are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. Those who are sodium-sensitive retain sodium more easily, leading to excess fluid retention and increased blood pressure. For these people, it is even more crucial to restrict sodium intake.
• Avoid eating processed foods.
• Avoid using refined table salt.
• Choose a high quality, unprocessed sea salt. Make sure that the salt is from a good source. Due to pollution, sea salts can contain mercury and other toxic heavy metals.
• Only salt food after tasting it to avoid overuse.
As we know from experience, consuming too much salt produces thirst and results in fluid retention. A natural way to balance excessive salt and remove accumulated fluid is to use beverages that exhibit natural diuretic properties. These beverages help with the passing of urine and with it, excess salt. Some examples of such beverages are green tea, dandelion leaf tea, cranberry juice, and carrot juice.
The key to good health is to stay away from anything refined or processed, including refined salt. Eat a natural diet with the freshest ingredients available, and do everything in moderation.
Common Types of Salt
Iodized salt is refined table salt fortified with iodine in the form of potassium iodide. Iodine is an important micro nutrient vital for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. If you use other types of salt without added iodine, make sure you eat a diet including salt water seafood, sea vegetables, eggs, and dairy products.
Kosher salt is evaporated from salt water. It is prepared under specific conditions approved by the Orthodox Jewish faith and contains no additives or added iodine. It is a coarse-grained salt and dissolves quickly. Kosher salt is a much healthier choice than refined table salt.
Pickling salt is like refined table salt but it does not contain iodine or anti-caking chemicals, both of which turn pickles dark and unsightly. It is virtually 100% sodium chloride. It is a very fine-grained salt and dissolves quickly.
Rock salt is land-mined. Minerals and other harmless impurities give it a grayish color. It comes in large crystals and is not used directly on food. Rock salt makes a great bed for serving oysters and clams and is also used in ice cream makers and for de-icing driveways.
Sea salt is made from evaporated sea water and has a fresher, lighter flavor than standard table salt. Unprocessed sea salt includes naturally present trace minerals but does not contain any significant amount of iodine which is essential for the healthy functioning of the thyroid glands. Therefore, if you use sea salt, make sure your diet includes iodine-rich foods, such as salt water seafood, sea vegetables, eggs, and dairy products. Sea salt comes in many colors, from white to pink, brown, and black.
Table salt, found in most salt shakers, is land-mined and goes through a refining process that removes all naturally-occurring minerals. Chemical additives are blended in to prevent clumping.