Once considered a precious commodity, salt has been labeled a “bad food” for many years prompting food manufacturers to create a slew of “low sodium” and “sodium free products.” But is salt really that bad for us?
Salt, an edible crystal, has been treated historically as a precious luxury. The word salary comes from the root sal because Romans were paid in salt and African and European explorers traded salt for gold. Salt was literally worth its weight in gold.
Salt is essential for life and health.
Salt gives the oceans their character and our tears their salty flavor. According to trace-mineral expert Henry Schroeder, “life began in salinity, and cannot free itself therefrom.” Unrefined salt is essential for many of our bodily processed, including:
- Salt is a major component of our blood, lymphatic fluid and even amniotic fluid
- Salt is responsible for carrying nutrients in and out of our cells
- The components of salt assist in the firing of neurons in our nervous system
- Salt plays a key role in digestion. It is our major source of chloride, an important component of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for proper protein digestion.
- Adequate salt intake helps our adrenal glands produce the hormones needed to keep our metabolism running smoothly.
What is salt?
Salt is often thought to be synonymous with sodium. However, there is more to salt than just this one ingredient. Salt is mostly made up mostly of sodium and chloride. Most commercial table salt is land-mined, whereas sea salt is obtained through the evaporation of seawater.
Remember, our bodies need whole foods that contain a variety of nutrients instead of foods that have been processed down into containing singular nutrients. Missing nutrients lead to imbalance leaving us prone to illness. Sea salt contains 78% sodium chloride and the remainder being made up of magnesium, calcium, potassium and other minerals and micro-minerals. USDA standards for table salt are set to be no less than 97.5% sodium chloride, the remainder being some magnesium and calcium and “approved additives.”
What about iodine?
Standard iodized salt includes potassium iodide to supplement iodine for those who may be deficient. However, when including iodine, dextrose (a type of sugar) is added to prevent the iodine from oxidizing. In turn, sodium bicarbonate is also added to keep the iodine from turning purple as well as various anti-caking agents to keep the salt from sticking.
Instead, iodine can be easily included in the diet through fish, seafood, sea vegetables like kombu and eggs.
When salt is a problem
More than 75% of the salt consumed in the U.S. comes from processed foods, mostly in the form of just sodium. Canned soups, frozen and pre-packaged meals, chips and pretzels, cereals, cheeses, condiments, dips and sauces, deli meats, breads and baked goods all contain large amounts of salt.
The problem is not the salt we add to our boiling water or pasta sauces, but the large amount of salt we consume through packaged foods and restaurant meals.
What kind of salt should I buy?
In short, just about any sea salt is better than an iodized white salt. Nearly every well-stock grocery store now sells sea salt in its natural foods section and it can also be purchased at health food stores and online.
Look for sea salt that has some color – pink or grey are most common. Salt evaporated directly from the sea is not pure white by nature. White sea salt has most likely been processed in some way to rid it of any color.