Our bodies need salt to work properly. So what’s wrong with getting it from good old table salt?
I’ll compare the ubiquitous Morton’s Salt with a popular, easy to find sea salt, Pink Himalayan, to address that question.
SALT IN HISTORY
As early as 6,050 BCE, Egyptians made religious offerings of sea salt to their gods.
The earliest known treatise on pharmacology was published in China around 2,700 BCE. A major portion of this work was devoted to a discussion of more than 40 kinds of sea salt.
In about 2,200 BCE, Chinese Emperor Hsia Yu levied the first tax ever – on sea salt.
Sea salt was a valuable trade item between the Phoenicians and the lands in their Mediterranean empire.
In ancient Greece, slaves were traded for sea salt – an unsatisfactory slave was said to be “not worth his salt”.
The word salary is derived from the word salt. Sea salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted in ancient times so it was often used as a method of trade and currency.
Salad is also derived from salt – from the early Roman practice of salting their leafy greens and vegetables.
Among other English words derived from sal are sauce and sausage.
Salt has been a symbol of fertility over the ages – it’s the root of the word salacious.
Revered as a precious mineral, salt was once traded ounce per ounce for gold.
Salt bars were, and are still, used as money in parts of Ethiopia.
Marco Polo reported that in Tibet, cakes of sea salt were pressed with images of the emperor and used as currency.
During the War of 1812, the American government, unable to pay their soldiers in coin, paid in salt brine.
Salt was deservedly highly esteemed throughout history – from the sea, necessary for life, full of minerals and other trace elements. The commercially processed table salt generally in use today, with its trace minerals removed and chemicals added, has essentially been rendered toxic.
(SaltWorks, 2016A) & (Hardin, 2014)
Ethiopia, Amole Salt Bar (obverse)
PROCESSED TABLE SALT
Refined salt (table salt – the ground up white stuff found in salt shakers in most American homes and on the tables at restaurants) is basically refined sodium chloride with additives, such as anti-caking agents to extend its shelf life and keep it from clumping together in salt shakers. (Food52, 2012)
In the refining process, the salt is soaked in a solution which may contain sulfuric acid or chlorine and various bleaches. Then it is heated to a temperature that removes its minerals and other trace elements that our bodies need to function. Some processed salt is then spray coated with an iodide as it moves along a conveyor belt before getting packaged. (Hardin, 2014) & (The Salt Institute, 2013)
IODIZED TABLE SALT
‘Iodized’ table salt manufactured in the US has had potassium iodide added to it. This synthetic form of iodine is also problematic. When an iodide is added to refined salt, a stabilizer, generally dextrose (a sugar), must also be added to keep the potassium iodide from breaking down and releasing iodine fumes into the salt container, giving the salt an unpleasant chlorine-like odor. So you’re getting sugar along with your salt when you use iodized table salt. (Fentress, 2011) & (The Salt Institute, 2013)
We obtain iodine from eating fish and shellfish, eggs, cereal grains, legumes, dairy products from factory farmed animals fed with iodized salt, and some food additives. There’s also iodine hidden in cough expectorants; antiseptics; drugs such as sulphonamide, lithium, dopamine, steroids, aspirin, certain heart and anti-diabetic drugs; and natural supplements such as kelp and seaweed. (Hardin, 2014)
Iodized salt adds greatly to our iodine intake. As a result, people in the West risk iodine overload. As much as 75% of the body’s iodine is stored in the thyroid gland and used to produce hormones regulating metabolism. Too much iodine causes the levels of these hormones to become dangerously unbalanced, leading to metabolic and immune disorders. (Thomas, 2009)
TABLE SALT CONTAINING SYNTHETIC IODINE
SEA SALT CONTAINING NATURAL IODINE
BENEFITS OF REFINED TABLE SALT?
Refined salt is cheap. It’s added to almost all manufactured foods and most food eaten in or purchased from restaurant chains and other restaurants.
On average, Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of refined salt per day. Of this amount, about 75% is derived from processed food. The other 25% comes from sources such as water treatment and medications.
Processed salt is a significant ingredient in most processed foods and restaurant meals – many individual meals contain far more than a day’s worth of sodium.
Processed table salt provides virtually NO benefits for the body and causes numerous health problems. (Hardin, 2014)
Refined table salt has had all its health giving trace minerals removed during processing. These minerals, naturally present in sea salts, help balance blood pressure. “Consequently, table salt causes gross blood pressure fluctuations, instead of stabilizing it. This well-known danger has created an entire industry of ‘low sodium’ foods.” And, by the way … those stripped trace minerals are then sold to supplement manufacturers! (Corriher, 2008)
REFINED TABLE SALT IN PROCESSED FOODS
Sodium Content in Processed Foods
“Processed foods are very high in sodium, but it is always in the form of table salt, artificial flavors, or flavor enhancers. In the ultimate heart-health irony, low sodium products often contain monosodium glutamate, a sodium-based excitotoxin that causes heart attacks in people who do not have enough magnesium (from organic vegetables and sea salt). It is probably the most common reason for mysterious heart failures in young athletes, who simply fall-over dead at sporting events. The profuse sweating imbalances their electrolytes even further, to become the final straw on the camel’s back.” (Corriher, 2008)
ADDITIVES IN REFINED TABLE SALT
A Partial List of Additives in Refined Salts
“Contrary to popular belief, table salt is not just sodium chloride. It also contains additives that are designed to make it more free-flowing. Ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate are commonly included. Aluminum intake leads to neurological disorders, particularly when no selenium is provided to help the body to chelate it. Aluminum bio-accumulates inside the body, causing further degeneration over time. Talc is a known carcinogen, though its effects upon ingestion have not been heavily studied. While it was once used in baby powders, the majority of such products now use cornstarch instead of talc, because of the known health risks. The F.D.A. has a special provision to allow talc in table salt, even whilst it is prohibited in all other foods, due to toxicity issues. According to current regulations, table salt can be up to 2% talc.” (Corriher, 2008)
The US FDA has approved at least 18 chemicals to be added to refined table salt for various purposes that have nothing to do with health. These chemicals provide NO nutritional benefits. (Corriher, 2008) & (Trainor, 2014)
Be sure to use only a sea salt, NOT refined table salt, in your neti pot or you’ll be treated to an intense burning in your sinuses … a clue to how harsh refined table salt is.
HIMALAYAN PINK SEA SALT
Himalayan pink sea salt is actually mined from 250,000,000 year old salt deposits located in a mountain about 300 km from the Himalayas, in the Khewra Salt Mines, the second largest salt mine in the world, located in Pakistan. It’s beautiful pink color comes from large amounts of iron oxides and the other trace minerals in it.
Khewra Salt Mines in Pakistan
Himalayan pink sea salt provides many health benefits:
- Provides your body with all essential minerals and every trace mineral that it needs
- Generates hydroelectric energy in your body’s cells
- Increases conductivity in nerve cells for communication and information processing
- Helps to create an electrolyte balance
- Increases hydration
- Dissolves and eliminates sediment to remove toxins
- Extracts excess acidity from your body’s cells to stabilize PH, including the brain cells
- Enhances the absorption of nutrients through the intestinal tract
- Controls the water levels within the body, which regulates them for proper functioning
- Aids in reducing the common signs of aging
- Balances the sugar levels in the blood
- Regulates you blood pressure
- Stabilizes irregular heartbeats
- Prevents muscle cramps
- Aids in proper metabolism functioning
- Strengthens bone structure. Osteoporosis in many ways, is a result of salt and water shortage in the body
- Balances PH (alkaline/acidity) and helps to reduce acid reflux
- Promotes kidney and gallbladder health – helps the kidneys to pass excess acidity into the urine
- Regulates health sleep patterns naturally
- Helps maintain sexuality and a healthy libido
- Prevents gout and gouty arthritis
- Prevents goiters
- Regulates water content both inside and outside the body
- Helps maintain muscle tone and strength
- Lowers incidence of sinus problems, and promotes over-all sinus health
- Supports healthy respiratory function – clears mucous plugs and sticky phlegm in the lungs, particularly in asthma and cystic fibrosis
- Eliminates persistent dry coughs – just put a dash on the tongue
- Prevents varicose veins and spider veins
- Helps treat emotional disorders
- Preserves serotonin and melatonin, known antidepressant neurotransmitters
- Stops excess saliva production
- Is a strong anti-stress element for the body
(Astarita, 2015) & (Natural Health International, 2014)
See What Are the 84 minerals in Himalayan Salt? for additional information on the health benefits of and uses for Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. (Garvin, 2015)
OTHER DELICIOUS SEA SALTS
A few other noteworthy sea salts to try – each has a different taste and texture (Hardin, 2014) & (Loesch-Quintin, 2012):
Hawaiian Red Sea Salt
This fine or coarse grained red sea salt is rich in trace minerals and iron. It gets its color from a natural mineral called Alaea, a volcanic baked red clay. Hawaiians traditionally use this salt in ceremonies to cleanse, purify and bless tools, canoes, as well as in healing rituals for medicinal purposes. It has long been prized by native Hawaiians for its spiritual and health benefits. (SaltWorks, 2016B)
Next to Himalayan pink sea salt, Hawaiian Red Alaea is my favorite salt. I sprinkle it over salads to add crunch and an earthy taste.
I also put some on the palm of my hand and lick it off to restore balance to my cells if I’ve become dehydrated.
Celtic Sea Salt (Sel Gris)
Celtic sea salt is naturally extracted through sun drying and is grayish in color. It supplies, in bio-available form, all 82 trace minerals needed by the human body for optimal health.
Health benefits provided by Celtic sea salt:
- Regulates heartbeat and blood pressure
- Eliminates mucus buildup
- Improves brain function
- Balances blood sugars
- Alkalizes the body
- Reduces toxins
- Increases energy
- Provides electrolyte balance
- Builds immunity
- Promotes restful sleep
- Prevents muscle cramps
- Generally restores good digestion
- Will keep virtually indefinitely if properly stored
- Contains all 82 vital trace minerals
(Holistic Health Reforms, 2014) & (Water Benefits Health, 2013)
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de Sel is believed by many chefs to be the best finishing salt on earth. Its irregularly sized and unevenly shaped refractive crystals range in color from from barn owl gray to oyster white.
Fleur de Sel is also very high in mineral content as a result of the well-controlled evaporation process used by the salt rakers who harvest it from the salt pans where the sea water is evaporated. It contains 0.25% calcium, 0.37% magnesium, and 0.09% potassium – as well as varying trace quantities of iron, zinc, manganese, and dozens of other minerals. These combine with the sodium chloride to form a well-rounded and mellow finishing salt. (Bitterman, 2014)
There are numerous other healthful and beautiful, unrefined sea salts. See The SaltWorks® Gourmet Salt Guide and The Healing Properties of Unrefined Salts for information about them and additional information on the health benefits of the sea salts described above. (SaltWorks, 2016B) & (Hardin 2014)
MORE READING ON SALTS
If a fascinating and easy to read history of salt is tantalizing to you, I highly recommend Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History.
Mark Bitterman’s Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes is a satisfying guide on how to use the various sea salts.
And my favorite post of the ones I’ve written so far: The Healing Properties of Unrefined Salts (Hardin, 2014).
“There is a real misunderstanding about salt. On one hand, our consumption of salt seems to be killing us. On the other hand, we cannot live without salt. So, in order to answer this loaded question we must first explore the differences between table salt and unrefined salt.”
– Radiant Health Strategies (2010)
Camels Transporting Salt Across Desert in Mali
Astarita, D. (2015). Discover 32 Amazing Himalayan Pink Salt Benefits, Plus Why Table Salt is ‘Bad’. See: http://www.mikeanddonnagetalifestyle.com/discover-32-amazing-himalayan-pink-salt-benefits-plus-why-table-salt-is-bad/
Bitterman, M. (2014). The Four Facets of Fleur de Sel. Salt News. See: http://www.saltnews.com/2006/12/the-four-facets-of-fleur-de-sel/
Bitterman, M. (2010). Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. See: http://www.amazon.com/Salted-Manifesto-Essential-Mineral-Recipes/dp/1580082629/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1336427112&sr=8-10?tag=food52-20
Corriher, T. (2008). The Truth About Table Salt and The Chemical Industry. See: http://healthwyze.org/reports/115-the-truth-about-table-salt-and-the-chemical-industry
Fentress, S. (2011). Why Does Table Salt Contain Iodide? See: http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/table-salt-iodide/
Garvin, K.S. (2015). What Are the 84 minerals in Himalayan Salt? See: http://www.livestrong.com/article/534033-what-are-the-84-minerals-in-himalayan-salt/
Hardin, J.R. (2014). The Healing Properties of Unrefined Salts. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/?s=healing+properties+unrefined+salts
Holistic Health Reforms. (2014). Why Use Celtic Sea Salts? Health Freedom Resources. See: http://healthfree.com/celtic_sea_salt.html
Kurlansky, M. (2003). Salt: A World History. See: http://www.amazon.com/Salt-World-History-Mark-Kurlansky/dp/0142001619
Loesch-Quintin, L. (2012). 10 Salts to Know. Food52.com. See: http://food52.com/blog/3377-10-salts-to-know
Natural Health International. (2014). Himalayan Crystal Salt. See: http://www.himalayancrystalsalt.com/health-benefits.html
Radiant Health Strategies. (2010). All About Salt. See: http://www.radianthealthstrategies.com/healing_power_of_salt.php
SaltWorks. (2016A). History of Salt. See: https://www.seasalt.com/salt-101/history-of-salt/
SaltWorks. (2016B). The SaltWorks® Gourmet Salt Guide. See: https://www.seasalt.com/salt-101/saltworks-gourmet-salt-guide/
The Salt Institute. (2013). Iodized Salt. See: http://www.saltinstitute.org/news-articles/iodized-salt/
Thomas, P. (2009). What Type of Salt is Best? Ecologist. See: http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/health_and_beauty/270993/what_type_of_salt_is_best.html
Trainor, B. (2014). Refined Salt vs Sea Salt: 5 Reasons to go Natural. See: http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/2014/09/09/refined-salt-vs-sea-salt/
Water Benefits Health. (2013). Celtic Sea Salt: 10 Key Health Benefits and Usage. See: http://www.waterbenefitshealth.com/celtic-sea-salt.html
© Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.