Should You Add Salt To Your Diet?
For years we have been warned by the health authorities that fat is bad for our health and a major cause of common lifestyle diseases and salt has also experienced the same demonization. Labelled as a dangerous food additive and underlying cause of many diseases, the facts are if you eat the right sources of fats ( you can read more about healthy fats here) and consume salt in the right form, they will actually increase your longevity and help to prevent common lifestyle diseases.
Salt is in fact essential for good health, so much so that the body cannot function without it. Contrary to popular belief, the body actually requires salt for regulating and maintaining healthy blood pressure as well as optimal metabolism, digestive and adrenal function. Many of us fall victim to the dreaded sugar or salt cravings, but when it comes to craving salt, this can be an indication for compromised adrenal function. You can read more about the effects of adrenal insufficiency syndrome or adrenal exhaustion here.
The Japanese are renowned for their long life expectancy compared to other western nations and interestingly they have one of the highest salt intakes in the world but the difference between the Japanese salt intake vs the west, lies in the source they consume it in. Just as there are healthy sources of fat, carbohydrate and protein, there are also GOOD vs BAD forms of salt, so to reap the health benefits of salt we need to consume it from a healthy source.
The salt that you should avoid is the refined table and cooking salt, such as Saxa. Common table salt contains 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemicals such as moisture absorbents and is devoid of any vital trace minerals, because of the processing method used to dry table salty at an extremely high temperature. It is this processing method that alters the natural chemical structure of the salt to a form your body recognizes as something completely foreign. Refined table salt is contained in virtually every processed food. So the more processed foods your diet contains, the more processed salt you are consuming and that is not including the added table salt you may be using.
Eating common table salt causes excess fluid in your body tissue, which can contribute to conditions like:
Rheumatism, arthritis and gout
Kidney and gallstones
Processed table salt also contains preservatives such as calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, and aluminum hydroxide to enable it to pour more easily. Aluminium has been linked as a potential cause of Alzheimer's disease.
So the million dollar question, which form of salt is healthy for us?
The healthiest salt is Himalayan or Murray River salt, because unlike common table salt, it has not been processed or contaminated with toxins or pollutants. The major health benefits of Himalayan and Murray River rock salt, boil down to the fact they contain 84 trace elements and minerals. The only downside to these sources of salt, is that it does not contain an essential mineral iodine, which is contained in refined table salt. Iodine is an essential for maintaining healthy thyroid function, but don't fret, you can get iodine from other dietary sources, such as seaweed or supplementing, but just be sure to not overdose as too much iodine can be just as bad for your health as not enough! Every time a see a patient for the first time, I test their iodine level and alarmingly the majority return a sub-optimal level - including those consuming refined table salt. I recommend everybody have their iodine levels assessed because the effects of iodine deficiency will have a major impact on your thyroid function and subsequent metabolism, fertility and energy levels. You can read more about the effects of an underactive thyroid here.
Health benefits of natural Himalayan Salt include:
Fluid balance regulation
Promotes a healthy cellular pH balance
Aids in healthy blood sugar regulation.
Aids healthy food absorption.
Supports respiratory health.
Helps to clear the sinuses.
Prevention of muscle cramps.
Aids in sleep regulation
Promotes healthy vascular health.
Himalayan and Murray River salt does not contribute to high blood pressure like typical table salt because it contains essential trace minerals and elements including potassium, calcium and magnesium that help to promote healthy fluid balance through replenishing your electrolyte minerals.
I must admit I prefer Himalayan or Murray River salt over sea salt because the worlds oceans have become so polluted by toxins including mercury, PCBs and dioxin. So sadly today's sea salt simply isn't as healthy as it used to be.
For those wondering about rock salt, unfortunately this is a poor substitute compared to Himalayan salt, because it contains little nutritional value, because your body cannot absorb and metabolize the minerals it contains compared to those contained in Himalayan or Murray River salt.
By avoiding processed foods and adding refined table salt to your diet, your health will actually benefit from adding a pinch of authentic Himalayan or Murray River salt to your meals.