This Monday Basics series is a new thing up here on my blog, meant to be a quick read on one manageable task you can implement in order to best support optimal health. This week's topic is one that is a pretty basic change that is fairly easy to implement, but is one topic that also raises many questions and controversy. We're talking SALT.
Without getting too analytical about it, (although if you're interested, there are some fascinating articles here, here and here if you'd like to read up on interesting studies and conclusions that have been drawn) salt is really an essential nutrient to life. We need it. We wouldn't be alive without it. We came from the ocean, evolutionarily speaking; our insides are virtually a delicate balance between water and salt. For those in a rush, here's my take home message: toss your table salt, and swap it out for a good high quality unrefined sea salt. Read on if you want to know more.
There are many reasons to go the sea salt route; chief among them, sea salts have a mineral profile much richer than that found in table salt, from some 60 to 80+ minerals, depending on the variety you are purchasing. These minerals are essential to our wellbeing; you will find calcium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, iron, iodine, silicon, phosphorus and vanadium to name a few, and small amounts of iodine in addition to the potassium and chloride, which make up roughly 84% of the salt.
But in table salt? You will find present solely potassium and chloride as minerals, making up a bit more than 97% of the salt's content. Every other mineral has been stripped from this salt in the manufacturing process. Table salt is made from crude sea salt that has been heated to 1200ºF; in this process, most minerals are stripped away and other additives are thrown in the mix and the original structure of the salt is altered, making it harder for our body to identify it and use it. You'll find some aluminum derivatives, anti caking agents to keep the salt from clumping; you may also find either MSG or small amounts of white sugar in the mix to make up that +2% remainder.
Why do we need salt? In the sea salts, you will find some vital minerals that are necessary to proper adrenal and thyroid function as well as immune and brain function. If you're craving salty snacks, it may be your body's way of requesting more of the minerals found in sea salts, indicating you may need some adrenal or thyroid support. We need salt for our digestion as some of those minerals found in sea salt are needed for enzymatic reactions in the body in order for us to break down foods we are ingesting. These trace minerals also help us stay hydrated, they also ensure our itty bitty sodium-potassium pumps found in each cell are in good working order, needed for our energy cycle called ATP. These trace minerals also help maintain our blood's pH in a normal range; they are needed to help balance blood sugars, necessary to good brain function and supporting our immune systems. And let's not forget the heart! These trace minerals help regulate our heartbeat and blood pressure and are a major component of blood plasma! Magnesium is a big one found in unrefined sea salt, and this mineral is needed to maintain good bone health, regulate nerve and muscle impulses helping to prevent muscle cramps.
One comment I hear often when the subject of table salt vs. sea salt comes up is iodine, and this is an important thing to talk about. Iodine is integral to our body's healthy thyroid function; manufacturers started adding iodine to their table salt to help prevent the occurrence of goiters. As our soil levels of iodine have been depleted over the last century, so have the iodine in our food sources gone down (you just can't make iodine out of thin air!). Problem is, table salt has such a high amount of iodine that it ends up having a negative impact on the thyroid. If you are concerned about losing your iodine intake by going the sea salt route (know that there is some iodine found in sea salts), the idea then would be to reach for food sources that are still rich in iodine: think seaweeds, any fish or shellfish hailing out of the ocean.
SALT IS AN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT TO LIFE. Here is how to add this nutrient to your daily life:
choose a good high quality product, looking for the words 'unrefined' or 'not treated' on the package. (good varieties include 'celtic', 'himalayan', or Utah's 'RealSalt')
salt your food to taste (everyone's tastebuds will require different amounts!)
if the sea salt is white in colour, really read the package as most of the time, the salt will have been stripped of some of the minerals in order to make it look appealingly white
your salt should have colour; it is this colour that indicates what minerals are found within
check with your medical practitioner if you have heart disease, high blood pressure or kidney troubles before making any changes to your diet especially in regards to salt
because I have a hard time deciding, I actually purchase three kinds of sea salts in bulk, and mix them all together in order to get a balance of minerals
because I'm saying unrefined sea salt is good for you, don't think it's reason you can go hog wild; eat it in moderation (use your noggin)
if you're concerned about not getting enough iodine, reach for seaweed, choose fish or shellfish that are wild caught (not farmed)
Incidentally, if you're curious to know more about adrenal health, (where yes, indeedy, I will be talking about swapping your table salt for sea salt) I am leading a workshop on Tuesday January 12th on Loving Your Adrenals. Follow this link if you'd like more information on how to get tickets.