To Salt or Not?
Does the salt you have on in your kitchen add to your nutrition, or take away from it? With all the choices available, how do you know which salt to use? Do we even need salt in our diets? These are just a few of the questions that often arise when the topic of salt comes up. Let's dig into some answers.
We begin with ordinary table salt, which is mined from ancient seabeds or evaporated from sea water, then processed. This processing strips many existing minerals, leaving behind only sodium and chloride. Once processed, aluminum and chemicals (anti-caking agents) are added to keep individual salt grains from sticking together. Additionally, non-organic (not from food) iodine (in the form of potassium iodide) is often added. Iodization, as this process is known, was begun in the 1920s to combat the widespread iodine deficiencies of the early 20th century, which resulted in a high incidence of goiters (indicative of hypothyroidism). While table salt is chemically very similar to sea salt, it is devoid of trace minerals. Further, excess table salt can be harmful to the kidneys; yet sea salt is beneficial to the body in many ways. As always when the choice between a whole, natural food and a processed food presents itself, we choose the former.
Next, let's take a look at sea salt. You see the "sea salt" label everywhere. So what is it, and does its color matter? There are many different types of sea salt; some are mined from ancient sea beds and some are evaporated from salty bodies of water. As you've no doubt seen at your local market, there are white, grey, black, orange, and other colored varieties, each taking their hue from the mineral(s) abundant at their source. Salt with a color to it means it has a rage of vitamins and minerals (electrolytes) that are very important for wellness. White sea salt, which is sold in most any grocery store, is harvested from contemporary seas through a process of evaporation, which can take up to five years! As water leaves, pure sea salt remains. Given the polluted state of our oceans, this can mean that some of this salt is contaminated by toxins, though it is not always the case.
A very popular form of salt, Himalayan salt (some refer to as Himalayan sea salt) is mined from the Pakistani Khewra Salt Mine, an area where pockets of ancient sea water settled long ago. Its signature pink color is due to its high iron oxide content. Some note that Himalayan salt can be contaminated with heavy metals, so we try to steer clear of this type of salt for that reason. Celtic sea salt, which is grey and slightly damp, is a wonderful source of trace minerals and we especially enjoy its flavor. Essential minerals such as calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium are necessary in the ecology of the body, as they allow normal functioning and homeostasis. We add Celtic sea salt to our food and water daily.
According to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., sea salt is vital to a healthy body, and is a core component of his recommendation for water intake and proper hydration. Dr. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. also recommends high quality sea salt as a part of the daily diet. Both doctors like to dissolve sea salt in water, with roughly 1/8-1/4 tsp to each pint of water. Again, we like Celtic sea salt. If you are drinking half your body weight in ounces in water daily, then this gives you a good estimate for the amount of sea salt to add to your water. This sea salt assists in hydrating the body and keeping it hydrated. As Dr. Dean states, "minerals help hold water inside cells where they are needed for proper body function." Sea salt adds vitality and life to our bodies and is a key factor in keeping us working well and happily.