The Salt Debate

We need salt in our diet to regulate blood sugar, aid digestion and control nerve and muscle function, but most physicians and health professionals now recommend a diet that is low in salt. We need to understand the facts about why salt can be harmful, and the difference between the different salts available in the supermarket in order to make an informed decision about exactly how much salt we really need in our diet.

Why Salt is Bad for Your Health
Table salt is usually 99.9% sodium chloride and too much can have harmful side effects on how our body works. An excess of salt in the diet has been found to cause fluid retention, which in turn can lead to weight gain, among other more serious issues. Water retention causes the blood vessels to be constricted which puts pressure on the heart. This manifests itself in high blood pressure and eventually can cause heart damage as it overworks the heart muscle. Over the years, a diet high in salt generates deposits in the fatty tissue, which can restrict blood flow and may cause strokes, renal disease and osteoporosis.

The Importance of Salt
Once upon a time salt was literally worth its weight in gold. It was essential as a preservative and is necessary to carry nutrients to and from cells, to carry messages along the nerves and to regulate fluid balance and the heartbeat. Without salt, we would surely die.

However, our modern diets of processed foods are crammed with salt, also listed on nutritional labels as seasoning, binding agents, preservatives and color enhancers, which are all basically sodium and chloride. The average adult needs just 4 grams of salt per day; more than 6 grams can begin to cause harmful side effects. Typically, we consume 9 to 12 grams of salt per day, without even adding it to our food at the table.  Once you understand the harm salt does to our health, and the amount of salt that is hidden in our food, it is possible to take action to reduce our intake of sodium. By avoiding salt-laden snacks, fast food and heavily processed meat products you can start to bring your salt intake down to healthier levels.

The Difference in Sea Salt
Another way to reduce sodium levels is by switching from table salt to sea salt. Refined table salt is an industrial by-product that is produced when naturally mined salt is heated with aluminum and chemicals, or refined, to extract the trace elements. The remaining sodium chloride is then bleached to make it pure white, which makes it a more attractive condiment. Iodine is added to iodized salt to add some token nutritional benefit.

In contrast, sea salt is harvested by the evaporation of salt water. It contains 2% of essential trace minerals including potassium, iodine, iron, copper, calcium, sulphur and magnesium. It is important to only use unrefined sea salt to ensure it has not had its trace minerals removed. Even though sea salt is considered a healthier alternative, it is still important to adhere to the recommended amounts of salt each day to avoid the harmful side effects that excessive sodium chloride can cause.

Resources:
http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/Salt
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sea-salt/AN01142
http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/health_and_beauty/270993/what_type_of_salt_is_best.html
http://www.whycenter.com/why-is-salt-bad-for-you/
http://wellnessbywendy.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/sodium-is-essential-to-life/
http://butterbeliever.com/2011/06/20/is-the-word-sea-in-front-of-my-salt-good-enough/
http://blog.j-dc.com/2011/04/salt-farm-35-gourmet-sea-salts-so-delicious-you-won%E2%80%99t-need-food/
http://grist.org/food/2011-05-26-change-in-season-why-salt-doesnt-deserve-its-bad-rap/

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