How can one eat healthy when they avoid salt? Salt is vital for every day life. Now, I am not talking about the white processed salt, which is sodium chloride based, but I am referring to the ‘unrefined’ salt. This unrefined salt is unadulterated, not processed and not made to look like a ‘perfect’ synthetic white powder. It is usually more granular in shape and not pure white. This salt contains over 80 minerals and elements, in other words it provides the minerals necessary for life.
Historically salt was worth its weight in gold. Not only was it used for medicinal purposes such as in healing infections, regulating blood pressure (yes, beneficial for blood pressure issues), clearing congestion (such as the common sinusitis) but it was also used by the Romans to pay for soldiers. It was used to preserve food, which helped many ancient communities to survive when food supply was low. There are many historical uses of salt but I am going to stick with the health benefits for now.
Did you know that the minerals in unrefined salt are the ‘spark plugs’ of our physiological being? Why then, is salt frowned upon by the medical profession? I hear you mutter….
This is because the mainstream medical profession is used to dealing with the refined white processed salt, not the healthy unrefined salt. Refined salt consisting mainly of sodium chloride is known to negatively impact blood pressure. After all when one takes sodium chloride the body will hold onto water (hence blood pressure can rise)…but this is not the case with unrefined salt.
Is it better just to avoid all salt? No, the body requires minerals and elements daily to function. …here are a few reasons indicating the importance of having unrefined salt.
A study (Alderman, M. Hypertension, 1995; 25: 1144-1152) with 3000 high blood pressure patients showed that there was a 430% increase in heart attacks in the group with the lowest salt intake compared with the group with higher salt intake. This is because low salt diets cause multiple mineral deficiencies. Minerals such as potassium and magnesium are vital for heart function and these minerals are found in unrefined salt but not in standard salt.
Salt (unrefined) is also important for optimal hormonal balance. A low salt diet and/or diet high in refined salt can play havoc with hormones such as aldosterone and noradrenaline. These hormones can go onto stimulate the ‘fight or flight’ system which is basically the ‘stress’ system. Living in ‘fight or flight’ for longer than necessary creates long-term ill health.
Another generally well-known hormone, insulin has been shown to increase in diets low in salt. An increase in insulin can result in various disorders including obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, hypoglycemia etc.
So what salt should I be using? Well we want to use a salt that is known to contain at least 80 minerals and elements, a salt that has not been refined and a salt that is not usually sold in standard supermarket shelves with words like ‘lo’ salt or ‘rock’ salt, or just basic salt.
There are two that have been shown to contain at least 83 minerals and these are the Himalayan Salt (although this does not contain iodine) and the French sea salt called Le Guerandais. I have no shares in the companies selling these salts ..I don’t have shares in the companies selling these salts ..I am just sharing the knowledge.
Before rushing to purchase the unrefined salt, you may also want to check that you have sufficient stomach acid. Optimal levels of stomach acid are important not for only digestion of protein but also for the absorption of minerals (such as from unrefined salt) and B vitamins.
Here is a simple stomach acid test: Ensure it is done first thing in the morning before eating or drinking. Add a quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda to 235 mls (aka 8 fluid ounces) of water, stir and drink. Time how long it takes for you to burp. If you have not burped in 5 minutes then stop timing. This indicates you have low levels of stomach acid. If you burp within 3 minutes that indicates you have sufficient stomach acid, burping early and often would indicate too much stomach acid.
Keep a note of your test results as I will be sharing more on stomach acid in next month’s blog…