(WellnessNova.com) - Salt is a tricky subject when it comes to our health. Our bodies don’t produce it, and yet we need it to survive. Many people consume way too much salt which can have devastating effects on our health.
Excess salt can be responsible for high blood pressure and dehydration, among other illnesses. And yet, too little salt in the body can also cause problems. While rare, people who consume too little salt can suffer headaches, muscle spasms and seizures.
But consuming too little salt is rarely a problem for the average American. In fact, most Americans consume roughly around 3,400 milligrams a day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2015-2020 recommend that one should not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. Most of our excess daily salt can be found in processed and restaurant foods.
It goes without saying that people who reduce their intake of processed and packaged foods, while cooking more meals at home, can easily reduce their sodium intake.
But what about the type of salt we consume? And is there any difference between regular table salt, sea salt, and Himalayan salt? Can we make healthier choices when it comes to the type of salt we put in our food?
Salt (or NaCl) is basically made of two elements –sodium and chlorine. But there are important differences beyond that. Let’s take a look at three types of salt and how they are different:
1. Table Salt
Read the ingredients on a box of table salt and it might be surprising to see all of the things it contains besides salt. Most table salt is iodized, meaning it has added iodine. Iodine is a mineral that humans require in small amounts, and it is used by the thyroid gland to synthesize the hormones it produces. Too little iodine in the diet can be linked to goiter, weight gain, and hypothyroidism. Small amounts of iodine have been added to table salt in the United States since 1924 in order to combat these health issues.
But iodine-enriched salt can be a problem for those who have an iodine allergy and some people do not like ingesting a synthetic form of iodine. Instead, there are many natural forms of iodine that we can find in healthy foods. Seafood and sea vegetables, such as kombu, kelp, and other seaweeds, are a great source of iodine (as well as cranberries and organic yoghurt). In fact, “kelp has the highest amount of iodine of any food on the planet and just one serving offers 4 times the daily minimum requirement.”
Table salt also usually has a host of other additives. Anti-caking agents are usually added so the salt flows freely without sticking or clumping, and sometimes even sugar is added, or MSG. It is important to read the label of the table salt we buy to be aware of all the additives.
Table salt is often mined from underground deposits that were made from ancient oceans or made from evaporated sea water. It may even be taken from crude oil flake leftovers. It is processed through heating and stripped of all its natural nutrients before the additives are added. Because the additives are not white, the salt is often bleached to maintain its whiteness.
In a few words, we are getting a lot more than just salt when we buy cheap table salt. On a positive note, table salt usually contains no more sodium than any naturally occurring salt. Because it is a lot cheaper than natural salt, table salt is best used for pasta water and cooking other things where the water will be rinsed off.
2. Sea Salt
The origin of sea salt is pretty self-explanatory. It is made by evaporating sea water rather than being extracted from underground. Humans have been evaporating sea salt for consumption for hundreds of years, and it is produced all over the world, either through solar evaporation or by fuel.
Sea salt can vary in content and color depending on where it comes from. It can be white with black flecks, pink, and even black. Salt from Hawaii may contain black lava and red clay, for example. Valuable minerals besides sodium can be found in sea salt, and they are useful for the body.
Sea salt may contain potassium, calcium, and phosphorous as well as trace minerals such as zinc, iron, and manganese. While these amounts might be very small, it makes more sense to consume salt that contains even small amounts of these minerals, as opposed to table salt which has everything removed.
3. Himalayan Salt
Himalayan salt doesn’t actually come from within the Himalayas at all, but from the Punjab region of Pakistan, 190 miles away from the Himalayas. Most of it is mined from a massive salt mine known as the Khewra Salt Mine. These salt deposits were made millions of years ago when sea salt beds were covered by lava, snow, and ice, until today when it is mined and sold unprocessed.
Because it is an unprocessed salt, it contains many of the same trace minerals as sea salt mentioned above. In fact, Himalayan salt can contain up to 80 different types of minerals in small amounts. Also, because it is often sold in small rocks and pieces and ground with a grinder, some people prefer the taste of Himalayan salt because the minerals can enhance the flavor of the salt.
While some dispute the health claims of this type of salt, saying the mineral content is too small to make any sort of recognizable difference, many others use Himalayan salt as a healthy addition to their diet. Some people even enjoy the soft glow of a Himalayan salt lamp in their house as it is said to reduce positive ions in the home environment, improving health and well-being.
One last thing to consider when choosing which salt is best for us is to perhaps consider the ethics of the salt we purchase. If it is a natural salt, how was it harvested, by who and are the people who are mining it or harvesting it receiving a fair wage? Fair trade sea salt and Himalayan salt are readily available online and in health food stores.
There is no doubt that natural salt with all its original minerals and nutrients intact makes the most sense for people who are trying to make healthy dietary decisions. By increasing natural sources of iodine by eating iodine-rich foods, we can be sure we are getting enough iodine in our diet without the need of iodized, processed table salt.
By saying goodbye to table salt, we can also get rid of all the unnecessary unhealthy additives that are added to salt to make it whiter and flow better and even be more addictive. Let’s make the healthy switch today and enjoy salt as nature provides it — choose sea salt and Himalayan salt over table salt for a healthier life.