Salt has always been essential to humans, dating back to the prehistoric times. It has been used a natural flavoring for thousands of years. Moorish merchants in the 6th century would regularly trade prized salt in equal amounts for gold! There were salt trade routes all over the world with the most famous one spanning from the Sahara to Timbuktu. In fact, it is so vital to our existence that we have an area on our tongue solely dedicated to the salty taste.
Many different organizations, like the American Heart Association, state that salt is unhealthy. I would agree with them if they when solely referring to processed table salt. However, there is a major difference between processed table salt and real sea salt. The right salt in the right amount can actually be very beneficial to your health. Unlike real salt, processed salt actually causes your body to retain fluids – which therefore may lead to things like high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis. This is because physiologically, water follows salt, so if you consume too much sodium, water will be retained. The opposite is also true – low sodium will cause dehydration and extreme thirst. Sea salt affects the body differently because it contains other trace minerals like potassium. Potassium helps regulate proper fluid balance both in and outside of cells.
Table salt does not contain essential minerals like potassium because it is mined from underground salt deposits and highly processed.It is heated to extremely high temperatures, which alter the chemical composition and strip the salt of these minerals that provide nutritional benefits. Table salt ends up only being 97% sodium chloride while the other 3% is made up of anti-caking agents, iodine, MSG and/or white processed sugar to stabilize the iodine and aluminum derivatives. While it is important that we get iodine in our diet, it should be from real food sources and if that isn’t as available (especially here in the goiter belt), then iodine can be supplemented. Iodine evaporates extremely quickly. From the time it is added to table salt in the processing stage to when you’ve had it open for 20-40 days on your table, over half of the iodine is lost to evaporation. The amount that is added at the factory versus the amount that you sprinkle on your food at home is drastically different. In addition, the type of iodine they add is only 10% bioavailable. The bottom line is, no one knows how much iodine you are even getting from iodized salt.
In contrast, high quality sea salts, including himalayan sea salt and celtic sea salt, contain up to 84 trace minerals including magnesium, potassium, iron and copper. Trace minerals can be difficult to find in our foods because of the nutrient lacking soil they are grown in. Sea salts come from the seas and oceans – which still are abundant with trace minerals. They are the go-to source to obtain these essential minerals for our bodies to function at their best.
Himalayan Sea Salt is also known as a halite, and comes from a region of Pakistan not far from the Himalayan mountains. This region is known to have one of the richest salt fields in the entire world. Himalayan salt is believed to be composed of dried remnants of the original, primal sea. These salts can be pink, red or white in color and are indicative of their mineral content. They have undergone extreme pressure over millions of years to become 99% pure. When looking for quality of these salts, it is important to look for a darker pink salt, which indicates higher mineral content. Also, make sure the pink Himalayan sea salt is coming from Pakistan, which is the only true source of Himalayan salt. I would be wary of any that are sold at a very cheap price because they may be salt that was collected by higher elevations and not the deeper, more pure mines. These salts are more likely to have impurities and not reap as many of the benefits of the true, high quality sea salt. High quality pink himalayan sea salt is one of the purest salts you can find.
Celtic Sea Salt in comparison to other types of salt, contain less sodium and higher levels of calcium, magnesium and iron. It is very comparable to Himalayan sea salt for its health benefits but comes from a different source (Brittany, France), is a different color (grey) and has a different mineral composition. This light grey color comes from the sea minerals and clay found in salt flats. The clay ionizes the salt, making it even more beneficial. It is a very tasty and extremely famous in the culinary world for its flavor.
Sea salts contain all six essential electrolytes: sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. These happen to be the exact minerals (excluding sodium) that are stripped from table salt during processing. You can replenish your body’s electrolytes naturally by adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt to your diet. This is especially important if you are working out or sweating profusely and losing your natural electrolytes. You can make an all-natural gatorade at home by mixing ¼ tsp of himalayan sea salt to 1 liter of water and add the juice of half a lemon and some raw honey to taste.
It is always important to avoid the salt in processed and packaged foods. Sea salt, on the other hand, in moderate amounts daily is key to boosting your health in many ways. In addition to being flavorful, pink himalayan salt benefits include improving respiratory problems, balancing pH levels, aiding digestion, purifying air and inducing better sleep. Try substituting a high quality sea salt for your table salt and start reaping the benefits while using the salt shaker guilt-free. You can enjoy how tasty sea salt makes your food while it positively impacts your health – now that’s a win-win situation!
Photo credit to the Dr. Axe Food is Medicine Blog