The last few articles have been all about how sugar is the devil, and what to eat or drink instead. Now we're going to go to the opposite side of the spectrum, all the way to salt. Too much salt, like anything else added to processed food, can have hugely adverse health effects, especially from high blood pressure (ultimately leading to increase chance of a stroke or heart attack).
But here's the deal, scientific research is actually conflicting on this issue. There are some studies, like this one (in the Journal of the American Medical Association, no less) with over 3,600 people involved, that showed that the incidence of heart disease increased by 56% in the people with the lowest salt intake.
Let me repeat myself: the people with the lowest salt intake had 5 times the risk of dying of heart disease.
Here's another one, from the American Journal of Medicine, that shows the same thing.
According to Harvard Medical School, there are studies with over 100,000 people included showing that there is, in fact, a sweet spot for salt intake between 3,000 and 6,000 mg per day. People who ate too much salt or too little had higher rates of death and cardiovascular disease.
Why do we need salt anyways? Is it absolutely necessary?
The answer is a resounding YES. Salt, or more specifically, sodium and chloride in the salt:
- is a major component in every fluid in our bodies (think blood and lymphatic fluid)
- carries nutrients in and out of our cells (no biggie)
- is necessary for the firing of our neurons in our brains
- helps our brains communicate with our muscles
- maintains our blood pressure
- finally, the one that is most overlooked for hormone health, it is necessary for our adrenal glands to make most of our stress hormones, along with dozens of other hormones (the chemical messengers in our body)
Note on that last point above: if you crave salt, you may have an adrenal imbalance, which means that you've had way too much physical, mental, or emotional stress. Your adrenal glands have been trying to make more stress hormones, which requires salt, which is why you're craving it! This is why I believe that bodily symptoms aren't bad, they're your body trying to talk to you ... you just don't understand the language. Leave that up to holistic nutritionists, like me, who are trained to look at the whole picture of your body, and exactly what it's trying to tell us.
So what's the issue with salt? Mainly, the same issue that all formerly healthy foods have before they were processed to death ... they were once a whole food, and now they're a super concentrated version of themselves.
Real, unprocessed salt is about 98% sodium chloride, and the remaining 2% consists of an additional 60 trace minerals, including calcium, sulphur, silicon, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Processed table salt is 99.9% sodium chloride, with not much else in it.
You wouldn't think that 2% is a big difference, but it is. Consider the mineral composition of the human body, in that once you take out the water, carbon, and nitrogen, we're made up of (in order from highest to lowest): calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and silicon.
We came from the earth, and we need ALL the minerals of the earth, including trace minerals, not concentrated sources of just two of them. This could lead into a whole conversation about how most of us are deficient in magnesium (we are), and how we need more potassium to directly balance the sodium (we do), but that's a little hard core for a blog post. More like grad studies in physiology and biochemistry.
I'm going to get into today's actionable info, like what kind of salt is best.
I'll let you guess whether or not the 80% of salt we get from processed foods (not the salt we ADD to foods) is good for you or not. Shocker, it's not. If you want to eat more healthy forms of salt, you're going to have to cook real food from scratch.
You already know how I feel about meal planning (and if you don't, please check out my free guide called 6 Steps to a Stress Free Supper, with a FREE 3-day meal plan), and how if you don't plan to eat real food, it's not magically going to end up on the plate in front of you. McDonald's or Pizza Hut will, and they're sure as hell not using the healthy salts listed below!
Since it's hard to get too much salt when you're cooking from scratch, feel free to liberally salt your homemade meals with any or all of the following:
1. Celtic Grey Sea Salt - this is hand harvested off the coast of France, and is a light grey colour because of the naturally occurring clay in the region. Why do they do everything food-wise better in France? It's completely unprocessed, and is dried by the sun and wind.
2. Real Salt - yes, the company is actually called Real Salt, and it's based in Utah. The salt is mined from underground, ancient sea beds, and it's a very light, pink colour. Apparently, this brand has a lower sulphur content than the Himalayan sea salts listed below, so it will taste slightly sweeter in comparison. I can find this at my local grocery store in the organic section for cheaper than the other two, but you could also purchase it from Amazon.
3. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt - You can pretty much find this anywhere now, and it's my favourite to use. Maybe it's my former geology brain loving the fact that it's mined in Pakistan at the base of the Himalayas, and that's where my PhD research was going to be (until I took the fork in the road leading me to holistic nutrition!), and that the salt deposits are 250 million years ago. You're literally eating food that's been around before dinosaurs even roamed the Earth. That's just plain cool.
All three of these are totally unprocessed, other than grinding them up into smaller pieces for you. As with anything you purchase, knowing the source is key, and you could even go so far as to call different companies to ensure that they aren't totally destroying the environment by blasting unnecessarily in mines, or artificially colouring a processed salt so it looks like an expensive one.
You can trust that the two I've linked above for grey sea salt and Real Salt are the real deal, and as for the pink sea salt you can find at your discount department store? You'll have to take your chances on that one, until you can go to Whole Foods and stock up (and spend absurd amount of money on things you totally don't need while you're at it).
Here's a link to a recipe for avocado toast, which is jam packed full of potassium to offset any processed sodium effects you may be having right now.
BY ASHLEY SROKOSZ, RHN
Prep Time: 2 mins
1 package dried seaweed (kombu, nori, kelp, or any other kind)
1/4 cup pink himalayan sea salt, grey celtic sea salt, or Redmond's Real Salt
1. Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind the seaweed sheets until they are a powder totalling 1/4 cup.
2. In a small bowl, mix the powdered seaweed with the salt.
3. Use one-to-one in place of regular salt in recipes.
I wanna know: are you a salty person or do you have a raging sweet tooth? What's your fave sweet or salty snack?