Salt as you know it isn’t really salt at all
Salt gets a bad rap for its links to health problems, and it is certainly dangerous if only because of its prevalence in our diet. As my grandfather used to say, “salt is poison!” But I’d like to argue that it’s not salt we ought to fear; its the processing. Using a good unrefined sea salt should be a healthy option for most people. The salt you see on most dinner tables hardly even deserve the name.
What health problems is high sodium consumption intake linked to? Asthma, heartburn, osteoporosis, gastric cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiac problems, edema, and ulcers.
Still, I think salt can be a normal and even healthful part of our diets. Processing is the real problem. In fact, the table salt we are all accustomed to is more of a salt byproduct than salt itself. Allow me to explain.
When found in nature, salt contains 84 different minerals, but refined salt has only one: sodium chloride. According to Dr. Barbara Hendel, author of Water & Salt, “These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built.” Natural salt is not what causes weak bones and high blood pressure.
Anyway, here’s how the processing works. To dry the salt, it is heated as high as 1200 degrees; this “removes all the valuable magnesium salts as well as trace minerals naturally occurring in the sea.” What’s left is sodium chloride. Then, chemicals–including aluminum compounds–are added to keep the salt dry. Next, “to replace the natural iodine salts that are removed during processing, potassium iodide is added in amounts that can be toxic. To stabilize the volatile iodide compound, processors add dextrose which turns the iodized salt a purplish color.” Finally, a “bleaching agent” is use to make the salt white again. (Source: Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions)
This is bad. When faced with an excess of sodium and chloride, your body pulls tons of water from your cells to surround the sodium chloride and break it up. It takes 23 times the amount of sodium chloride in water to accomplish this. This process dries you out, leading to arthritis, kidney and gall bladder stones, and other health problems.
In addition, the iodine added to the salt doesn’t stay in your system as long as it should (at least when compared to that in natural salt). Iodine deficiencies are linked to thyroid problems (Nourishing Traditions).
What’s the solution? 75% of the salt intake of Americans comes from processed foods, so we need to stop eating processed junk food like canned soups and bags of pretzels. Second, everyone should find a good unrefined sea salt. Not all sea salts are good for you, so look carefully, and if you really want to go the whole nine, check out the recommendations here.
There are even claims that natural salt might even be great for your health. It might be good for joint pain, easing PMS, back pain, and bone strength. Salt intake has even been connected with longevity. But there is one reservation: a small minority of people happen to be salt sensitive, and should not consume much of any kind of salt.
That oughta do it everybody. Have a good one.