Salt is essential for life. Historically, we have consumed salt for centuries. Animals, long ago, traveled many miles in search of salt licks and paleolithic man dwelled near salt mines. It is crucial for the conduction of impulses in our nervous system. It adds flavor to food and acts as a preservative by inhibiting bacterial growth.
Salt is comprised of two basic elements sodium and chloride. Undoubtedly, you have heard that some believe it is linked to hypertension and heart disease but there is no concrete evidence in the research to support this in healthy individuals. The vast majority of salt in the Western world is consumed through processed food. If you are eating, as you should, whole unprocessed food and are healthy using salt should not be an issue for you.
Today we are bombarded with a wide variety of different salts all claiming to have some sort of health benefit. Research shows that the main difference lies in the mineral content and flavor intensity of the different salts. Let’s talk about a few of the more popular types.
Sea salt is made from evaporated seawater. It is mostly sodium chloride but contains trace minerals based on which body of water it is derived from. The downside to sea salt is the potential to have a high level of heavy metals such as lead. If it is taken from water that is polluted then the salt will be contaminated with the pollutant. I would use caution with this type unless you are certain you aren’t consuming salt from a polluted body of water.
Kosher salt was originally used for religious purposes. Jewish law requires that the blood be removed from meat before consumption. Kosher salt serves this purpose. It’s large flakes makes it very easy to pick up and sprinkle over your food. It also is less likely to contain any additives.
Himalayan Pink Salt is harvested from Pakistan. Why is it pink? It contains trace amounts of iron oxide or rust. Pink Himalayan salt contains small amounts of the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. It also contains a lower amount of sodium than regular table salt.
Table salt is the most common salt and has been used for years on the dinner table. Table salt is derived from salt mines and is refined. It is heavily ground therefore requiring anti-caking agents be added to remain free flowing. Iodine is also added as a public health service to fight iodine deficiency found in many parts of the world. Iodine deficiency is linked to hypothyroidism and mental delay. You can find naturally occuring iodine in many fresh foods such as fish, dairy, eggs and spinach. Most of the healthy minerals have been removed from table salt.
A healthy adult will need to consume roughly 1500 mg of sodium per day to replace losses through sweat and urination. We need 500 mg a day just to sustain life. The more active a person or those who perspire more will need even more. By consuming whole foods and avoiding processed food your salt consumption should not be an issue in healthy individuals free of chronic disease. I would avoid sea salt because of potential pollutants and everyday table salt because of its lack of micronutrients and additives. If you are using any salt other than table salt make sure you are consuming iodine rich foods such as fish, dairy and eggs. Other than that it is a personal choice based on flavor and benefits.