The issue of salt intake is confusing for many because they hear conflicting reports from doctors and the media. The most important thing to establish is what do I mean by salt? I say ‘what do I mean by salt’ because you hear in the media all the time that salt is bad and that you should have a “low-sodium” diet, which has created a market for all these “low-sodium” products. There is a big difference between refined table salt and real salt in its natural state. The problem is, yet again, we have word games being played by food manufacturers resulting in more health dangers for consumers.
The difference between refined and real salt
Salt in its natural state is good for you and has been consumed by humans for thousands of years with no problems. In fact, salt used to be very valuable, so much so that Roman soldiers were paid in salt. The problem we run into is when salt is processed by heating it up to 1200 degrees causing it to lose over 60 beneficial trace minerals which are naturally occurring. Refined salt is reduced to only two elements: sodium and chlorine, while natural sea salt or Himalayan salt contains beneficial minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and iron. So the reason salt has been connected to hypertension is not because salt is bad, it is the deficiency in minerals in table salt that is bad.
The danger of refined table salt not only comes from its lack of essential minerals, but also from dangerous anti-caking agents which are added to it like sodium aluminosilicate(this contains aluminum, which attacks the brain and has been linked over and over to Alzheimer’s disease) and sodium ferrocyanide(listed as hazardous to health in its MSDS).
Another danger of table salt is dextrose. Dextrose is added to iodized salt as a stabilizer to prevent potassium iodide from oxidizing and evaporating. Dextrose is basically an industry term for glucose. Dextrose is refined from corn starch which is most often from GMO corn. Dextrose, like other simple sugars, can cause spikes in insulin and blood sugar. It is another ingredient you don’t need in your salt.
What about iodized salt?
The last warning about table salt I would give is about iodized salt. Iodine is a necessary nutrient, so what could be the big deal? I will write a much more lengthy article on iodine another time, but for now here are a few facts.
Iodine was originally added to salt because certain areas of the country had soil that was deficient in iodine which in turn affected the iodine content of food. The amount that was added was only enough to prevent goiter(the swelling of the thyroid), but not enough for the needs of other parts of the body. The salt is iodized with potassium iodide which may be helpful to the thyroid, but the breasts and ovaries need iodine as well as iodide.
In addition to that, salt is a poor food product to fortify because chloride, which is a halogen, competes with the iodine for the same receptors, making it less effective. Other factors that contribute to iodine deficiency in the body are halogens like bromide, fluoride, and perchlorate. These all compete for the same thyroid receptors and also impair the function of the thyroid.
Iodized salt is only 10 percent “bioavailable,” meaning the body only uses 10 percent of iodide consumed. Iodine used to be added to bread as a dough conditioner and it was a lot more bioavailable in that form. Unfortunately, bread companies took iodine(iodate) out of bread and replaced it with bromide in the form of potassium bromate which only compounded the problem further.
Another issue is by the time the iodized salt reaches the grocery store, half of the iodine in the sealed container has evaporated into the air. After you bring the iodized salt home and you open it, even more escapes. Iodine in salt is unstable so it takes between 20 and 40 days for an opened container of iodized salt to lose half of its iodine.
The average RDV for iodine is 150 micrograms, which I believe is too low. We are as a nation definitely deficient in iodine and I would recommend you read the following books for more information: The Iodine Crisis and Iodine: Why You Need It
The bottom line with salt is that refined table salt is junk and you should avoid it at all costs. Americans ingest 80% of their salt through processed foods, which should be avoided anyway, and this is where most of the refined junk salt is getting into the diet. The other danger of processed foods are flavor enhancers. Flavor enhancers are added to make foods taste salty, even though they do not contain the sodium our bodies need. This creates another situation where you will overeat leading to obesity.
Is a low sodium diet actually healthy?
Low-salt diets are actually bad for your health when you are ingesting good salt like Pink Himalayan instead of refined. The fear of salt has caused many health problems. A low salt diet actually increases insulin resistance, increases risk of heart failure, and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, your body needs at least 1 teaspoon a day of unrefined salt for important functions of the body like carrying nutrients into and out of your cells, maintaining and regulating blood pressure, and helping your brain communicate with your muscles.
Change that salt from white to pink and you will be feeling much better.
(For further reading: Salt Your Way to Health )