Ditch the Table Salt and Switch to Sea Salt

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 in Blood Sugar Balance, Hydration, Mineral Balance

Ditch the Table Salt and Switch to Sea Salt

Every cell in the body requires salt to function. In fact, salt is needed for countless functions in the body.  Salt . . .

  • helps with nerve stimulation, muscle contraction and expansion, proper functioning of the adrenals, and other biological processes
  • contains magnesium which is important to nerve conductivity, bone density, resistance to heart disease,  producing enzymes, and forming tooth enamel
  • provides chloride which helps produce acid necessary for protein digestion and enzymes for carbohydrate digestion
  • is necessary for proper brain development and growth, especially in the developing brains of babies and children

Why am I suggesting you switch from table salt to sea salt? Read on!

Yes, all salt was originally sea salt. But common table salt is rock salt that has been blasted out of mines and then refined. The rock salt is kiln-dried in excess of 1000 degrees which causes chemical distortions that remove calcium, magnesium and potassium salts and other trace minerals. The natural iodine is destroyed during refining, so potassium iodine is added. To keep the refined salt dry and reduce caking, various additives are included, such as aluminum compounds. Dextrose (yes, sugar is even in your salt!) is added as a stabilizer, which affects the color, so a bleaching agent is used to give the desired white color. It is this unnatural process of refining salt that creates a product that is hard on the body and can put it out of balance.

Table salt causes the body to retain fluid. It is the true culprit that may contribute to high blood pressure, risk of stroke, cardiac failure, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and eczema among other problems.

In contrast, a good quality unrefined sea salt is naturally harvested by evaporating sea water. It is hand-raked and dried in the sun the same way it was done 2000 years ago by French salt farmers, leaving all the trace minerals and micro-nutrients intact. Gray in color and slightly moist, sea salt contains a wealth of between 80-100 trace minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, and zinc as well as electrolytes. It provides us with natural iodine as it contains microscopic amounts of sea life. Our bodies only need trace amounts of these nutrients, but they are absolutely vital for a variety of functions in our body, especially in enzyme production, immune function, adrenal health, and thyroid function.

When you ingest sea salt it:

  • immediately works with the saliva in the mouth and starts the digestive process, helping breakdown starches into sugar
  • has been known to lower blood pressure and decrease water retention
  • enables the liver, kidneys and adrenals to work more efficiently
  • can boost the immune system

Although unrefined sea salt can be considered a health food because of its trace minerals and micro-nutrients content, it should be used with wisdom and moderation . . . though salt in general may not need to be avoided to the extent we have been led to believe. For those of you worried about your risk of heart disease, there is new research to put your mind at ease.  Scientific American posted a recent article entitled It’s Time to End the War on Salt :  “This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.”

The article continues:

“Scientific tools have become much more precise since then (1977), but the correlation between salt intake and poor health has remained tenuous. Intersalt, a large study published in 1988, compared sodium intake with blood pressure in subjects from 52 international research centers and found no relationship between sodium intake and the prevalence of hypertension. In fact, the population that ate the most salt, about 14 grams a day, had a lower median blood pressure than the population that ate the least, about 7.2 grams a day.”

So relax and enjoy your salt! And what about the taste difference? You’ll probably find with sea salt that you don’t need as much to flavor your food.

Sea salt has a clean, pure, almost bright flavor and individual salts have subtleties based on the composition of its trace minerals. Some of the most common sources of sea salt include the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean, particularly in France on the coast of Brittany. As you explore different sea salts, you will learn to appreciate and distinguish the distinctive qualities of the many varieties and the ways these salts enhance the flavor and finish of foods. Most natural food stores have a selection of gourmet sea salts but you can find a good, basic Celtic Sea Salt in the spice aisle. (Read labels to check out their processing methods to make sure you’re buying a quality evaporated sea salt.)

I suggest you vary your sea salts by purchasing different types as each variety has a different composition and quantity of trace minerals depending on its source. You might want to have a basic grey Celtic salt on hand for day to day cooking, but also try a Hawaiian Red or a Peruvian Pink salt or a delightful Lemon Flake or an intense Black Truffle salt depending on your dish. Take a visit to The Meadow on North Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Oregon (also a location in NYC) to find a large, diverse selection of finishing and cooking salts to sample and find your favorites. They also have pickling and brining salts. (You’ll also enjoy their flowers, chocolates and wine as well!)