A client asked me the other day about Salt (Isn't it really bad for you? Should I get iodized or non-iodized? Is there any type of salt that is better?...) and I realized that it's a highly misunderstood, and I guess controversial, topic. So I decided it was worth addressing today.
Let me start off by saying that salt is not always bad! Like most things, it depends on various factors specific to each person's health, but for the most part, some good quality, high mineral-content salt is actually pretty good for you, and much needed!
Salt is an important element in keeping the proper mineral balance in our bodies. Our bodies need salt for proper circulation, bone density, and to stabilize blood sugar levels. However, there are many types of salt available today, so it's important to distinguish between them to make sure you're consuming the right kind and avoiding the worst (most common) type of salt.
Why are most people afraid of Salt?
Because excessive salt can bind water in the bloodstream and raise blood pressure. But this is primarily because people are consuming the worst type of sodium - refined Table Salt, which is a manufactured form of sodium, processed at high heat - and they're unknowingly consuming it in very high quantities through all packaged, processed goods.
Table Salt (like most other salts) is mostly just sodium chloride (NaCl), but as it's chemically produced and bleached, it's stripped of all minerals when processed, and then supplemented with synthetic chemicals. These chemicals can include manufactured forms of sodium bicarbonate, fluoride, anti-caking agents, potassium iodide, even aluminum, and may also include some MSG or processed sugar to help stabilize the added iodine. What's important to keep in mind is that these added chemicals can quickly become very toxic for our bodies!
Table salt can cause blood pressure to rise rapidly because the blood is attempting to move the toxic elements away from the heart. Plus, excessive table salt will cause us to retain liquids, and can worsen many existing imbalances / health conditions.
So clearly it is very important to cut down on refined Table Salt - which is not only coming from the shaker at your dining table and restaurants, but also from all the processed, packaged foods that contain a ton of this harmful, manufactured sodium. The salt in these foods is used as a preservative, which can cause major kidney, liver and thyroid issues. Aim for real, whole foods as much as possible - it's the key to better health! (I can't emphasize this enough!)
Healthy tip: You want to be especially careful when it comes to canned vegetables, beans and soups. I beg my clients to try making their own beans and soups, and to buy fresh (or even frozen) veggies. But if you do buy canned goods, take a look at the sodium content, and opt for "no added salt". Also, be wary of your packaged deli meats - they are loaded with preservatives and excessive sodium (the bad kind!) so make an effort to get your turkey or ham directly from the deli station. And of course, avoid packaged salty chips and crackers as much as possible, and always take a look at the sodium content.
However, do not despair because there are more natural occurring forms of salt that are actually good for you, such as Himalayan Salt and Celtic Salt, two types of sea salts which are harvested and dried in the sun. Even Kosher Salt is way better than your regular table salt.
Sea Salt is made by evaporating seawater, and while it is similar to table salt (in that is mostly sodium chloride), it contains some amounts of beneficial trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. The amount of these minerals depends on where it was harvested and processed. The key is to look for the unrefined sea salts (usually more expensive, but worth it!) such as Himalayan or Celtic salts.
Himalayan and Celtic sea salts are known to be the highest in nutritional value given their rich mineral content. Himalayan Salt is harvested in the Himalayas (primarily from the 2nd largest salt mine found in Pakistan); it contains all 84 trace minerals needed by the body, including iron oxide which gives it a pink color, and is said to be the purest form of sea salt. Celtic Salt comes from the Celtic Sea in France; it has a greyish color from the sand and clay impurities, and contains a bit of water which makes it more moist.
The trace amounts of alkaline minerals found in Himalayan and Celtic salts help our bodies achieve a proper balance of hydration, a balanced pH, and they fill our bodies with powerful electrolytes. They also help with proper immune, thyroid and adrenal function. They promote bone strength, prevent muscle cramps and improve circulation. Lastly, they can boost our digestive enzymes that allow us to properly absorb the nutrients from our food.
Kosher Salt has a larger flake size, so often a favorite for chefs given it’s different texture and initial flavor, and is less likely to contain additives like anti-caking agents and iodine (vs regular table salt). Otherwise, nutritionally, it’s very similar to regular salt. So if you can afford it, I recommend purchasing coarse Celtic Salt (fleur de sel) which is also kosher, great for cooking, and contains those beneficial minerals.
What about Iodine? Should you buy Iodized or non-Iodized?
Iodine is crucial for proper development and growth, and in particular, for proper thyroid functioning. Iodine deficiency leads to a sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism) which can lead to a slower metabolism, fatigue, etc, and can cause goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland). Iodine was first added to salt in the US in order to eliminate goiter. However you want to be avoiding the iodized table salt, where the iodine is added (usually in the form of potassium iodide) during the chemical processing of the salt. Instead, opt for Himalayan Salt that has naturally occurring traces of iodine. But really, the best way to get your iodine is to eat naturally iodine-rich foods such as sea veggies and wild saltwater fish.
Excessive sodium from processed foods and table salt can be harmful for our bodies, but when the sodium comes from real, unprocessed salts such as Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salts, it is actually quite beneficial. So THROW OUT YOUR TABLE SALT, cut down on all processed foods, and go to your local health food store to get yourself some Himalayan and Celtic Salts asap! They are a great way to season your food, together with fresh herbs and spices. Plus, if you have a sluggish thyroid, both Himalayan and Celtic salts are a great way to get some naturally occurring iodine.
Love and Salt,