Can Salt Be Good For You?

 

salt image with brown backgroundI’ve suspected that salt has been given a bad rap for a long while, and have been happily digging  into research that convinces me this is true. I freely admit that I enjoy salt and have always been reluctant to give it up, but I am more motivated by wanting to get to the real truth about whether salt is as bad as “they” say it is.

This popular fear of salt and subsequent desire to consume less salt has led to a huge “low-sodium” segment of the food industry – as you know, the food industry is always happy to cooperate with our fears and desires. The low sodium industry is now big business, but unfortunately, the low salt foods they produce are often laced with MSG or other unhealthy additives to achieve the flavour without the salt.  The rule of thumb to remember is to avoid or minimise processed food – whether it is high in salt content or low sodium. Dietary advice is often confusing and even conflicting as you know; we have been told to avoid salt, eat whole grains, stop drinking coffee, stop eating egg yolks, eat a low fat diet and that GM foods are safe as organic foods, to name just a few untruths. By listening to all this wise advice on healthy eating, we should all have got quite healthy by now.  But we’re not necessarily healthier at all by following the mainstream advice, including the advice to limit salt.

The truth is, many of us that are very health conscious have wised up to the fallacy of a low fat diet with lots of whole grains being healthy – along with a myriad of other untruths we’ve been told along these lines – but many of these same people that have “wised up” still agree that salt is unhealthy.

And these people would be 100% correct if we are talking about the chemically produced table salt that is being sold on the grocery shelf and added to most processed foods.  The table salt sold in shops is 97.5% Sodium Chloride, is chemically produced and heated to 1200 degrees F, bleached, and devoid of all nutrients. In many cases, it contains aluminium hydroide (which has been linked to many problems in the body, including Altzeimers Disease).  It also contains about 25% chemicals, such as compounds designed to absorb moisture. This common type of salt is not naturally occurring and it is important to note that salt-water fish will die if placed in salt water made with table salt. It is indeed a very wise health decision to avoid this kind of salt.  If you have it in your house, stop eating it immediately….the stuff really is toxic.  (You don’t have to throw it out though; you can use it for natural cleaning and stain removal around the house. If you live in a cold climate, sprinkle some of it around your door steps in the winter to keep ice from forming.)  Just don’t ingest this stuff!

Real salt, in its natural and unadulterated form, is not only necessary for your body to perform normal functions, but is critically important in the right concentration for optimal health. Real salt does not contain toxic additives (such as aluminium), is not bleached or heat processed, and is rich in minerals (up to 84 different ones) that can be difficult to obtain otherwise.  Table salt and authentic sea salt are two very different foods and it is important not to confuse the two.

A major flaw in many of the studies done on salt consumption is that table salt, not natural sea salt, was used in the research. Now there is a somewhat large body of evidence showing that salt consumption is harmful when no distinction has been made between the toxic, chemically created table salt, and natural “real” salt containing trace minerals your body needs. Most of these studies do not give us helpful information because of this.

If you’ve been limiting salt in your diet for health reasons, it would be good for you to differentiate between table salt and the healthy, mineral-dense salt that is authentic and natural salt. The taste between the two is very different and without discerning between these two very different substances, you are missing out on a richer and more varied taste and nutrient level in your food.

Perhaps you would like to do some research on your own; there is a lot of interesting information out there that is easy to access. (You can start with your own broad searches, but I looked at several articles that described some fascinating studies, and found information quite easy to access. In particular, you can look at an article in the NY Times –  www.nytimes.com/1991/12/science, or perhaps a 2003 study on salt by the Inter-University of Graz, Austria).

To buy good natural salt, you can go to health food stores, or try http://www.mountainroseherbs.com (USA), or perhaps http://www.maldonsalt.co.uk or http://www.cornishsalt.co.uk (UK). There are other good sources if one looks around, and though real salt will be more expensive than the chemical-laden table salt that is so prevalent, it does not have to be excessively expensive.  You will use much less of the real thing and will notice a difference in the taste. Explore this a little, and reap the rewards.

Some Interesting Research Nuggets:

There are old studies (some more than 20 years old) that suggest sodium is not the culprit in high blood pressure, but deficiencies in calcium and magnesium are.  In 1989, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine re-evaluated the link between salt and high blood pressure.  This study involved 10,000 people in 52 cultures around the world.  It involved participants whose diet was nearly salt-free, to ones who consumed vast amounts of salt.  In this study, salt intake was not estimated.  It was measured precisely with urine samples and obesity and alcohol consumption was taken into consideration.  The remarkable findings of this study was that except in a few places with extremely low salt consumption, the amount of sodium in the diet was unrelated to the prevalence of high blood pressure. (It was the extremely low salt intake that was problematic!) Also worth noting is that although the high rate of hypertension in Western cultures has long been attributed to the people’s love for salty processed food, this study actually placed these countries (in particular, the USA) right in the middle of the world’s salt intake curve. It looks very likely that we have been blaming the wrong culprit in the high blood pressure epidemic.

 

 

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