Is Salt Really Bad for Us?
October 15, 2012
I am asked this question constantly. We are bombarded with information about how bad salt is for us, and that we should be buying low sodium products. Then on the other side, we hear that we need to replace our electrolytes when we sweat. Aren't we sweating out salt?
First we need to make a clear distinction – sodium and salt are not necessarily one in the same. Average table salt – yes, this is sodium chloride with iodine added. But sea salt and rock salt are not just sodium, and are more nutritious because of the combination of minerals they contain.
Salt has proven to be an important substance throughout history. It has been used in the preservation of foods for thousands of years. Nowadays, most processed and packaged foods are laden with sodium, which contributes to the rising concerns of cardiovascular disease in Canadians. But a little sodium is necessary in our body. It works with potassium to allow nerve impulses to be transmitted, is involved in blood volume balance, blood pressure, and pH among other bodily functions. The problem is that while our daily need for sodium is 500mg most Canadians consume 3400mg daily.
So, seeing that salt is one of our primary taste sensations, that it brings out the flavour of foods, and is used in preserving foods, we need to find a way to use it without harming our health, and maybe even promoting our health. The keys are: to avoid sodium containing processed foods, eat small amounts of healthier forms of salt that we add to the foods we make from scratch.
These are salts that are obtained from ocean water by evaporating the water from sea brine. Sea salts still contain chloride and sodium, but alsocontain sulfate, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The location from which the salt is obtained can alter the flavour of the sea salt due to a change in the mineral content. Some sea salts are celtic sea salt, fleur de sel, salt fromt he pacific northwest. In general, the greyer the sea salt the more mineral content.
These are salts obtained from the mining of fossil marine salts on land, and are known to contain many minerals similar to sea salt. Despite the similar content to sea salt, rock salts require much more energy input in order to extract them. Himalayan rock salts have a higher content of sodium and chloride than sea salt and may be contaminated with gypsum, a less absorbable form of calcium.
Otherwise known as Magnesium sulfate, occurs naturally as a pure mineral. Due to their high magnesium content, Epsom salts are a highly recommended post-exercise bathwater treatment. The magnesium acts to relax tight muscles and reduce inflammation. Epsom salts are also used by gardeners who wish to replenish magnesium deficient soil for crops such as bell peppers without changing the soil pH.