Let’s Keep it Salty – Why Unprocessed Sea Salt is Good for Uou

| 27 September 2017

Everyone can relate to their parents telling them off for adding more salt to their meals when in actual fact there is so much more to salt than initially meets the eye. There has been a substantial amount of research done on low salt diets, and all fail to show benefits it actually has on the body. In fact, in many cases, a low salt diet actually has the opposite effect on what we think.

The Cochrane review of 6,250 subjects found no strong evidence proving the link between cutting salt intake and reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and even death. Another study published found that a lower salt diet actually increased the risk of heart disease and according to Melinda Moyer for Scientific American, the evidence showing a link between high salt consumption and heart disease is “flimsy at best”.

Motoi Yamamoto Toulouse 2011. Photo by: Makoto Morisawa

Difference between unrefined and refined.

The most important thing to consider regarding the salt in your diet is the quality. Unrefined and refined salt are two very different things, containing completely different minerals and even have conflicting molecule structures due to the processing of one. Natural, unrefined salt is made up of around 33% sodium, 50-60% chloride, 16% naturally occurring minerals that include silicon, magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium, all fantastic for our health. It actually contains around 60 trace minerals, and in Himalayan sea salt, it is said to be around 84 trace minerals. In refined salt, the processing ultimately removes a lot of these minerals and actually contains man-made chemicals caught up in the process. 

Refined salt, also known as table salt or commercial salt, has to be harvested mechanically, often from a number of different salt mines. These wonderful natural components and minerals found in the natural salt are often viewed as impurities in the industry and removed using synthetic chemicals including chlorine and sulphuric acid. Once this process has taken place, the salt is heated at extortionate levels to evaporate the water, whilst at the same time altering the molecular structure of the salt.

Studies show that up to 2% of table safe salt can actually contain anti-caking and conditioning agents including sodium ferrocyanide, ammonium citrate, and aluminium, obviously not the types of things you want to be going into your body compared to the nutrient-rich natural minerals found in unrefined salt. When we look at the overall contents of refined salt, it looks a little like this: 39% sodium, 60% chloride, 2% ferrocyanide, aluminium silicate, ammonium citrate and dextrose (refined sugar used as a stabilizer) and 0.1% iodine.

But why does this processing take place? Surely when salt is so perfect as it is, it should be left alone? Well, in the industry, shelf life is very important as it ultimately maximises profit, and refining the salt does just that. It is also believed that a whiter salt appears much more cleaner, thus attracting the consumer which in turn increases sales. There are also environmental factors that are taken into consideration. If salt is mined from an overly polluted area then the processing will remove these toxins. However, it is questionable that the chemicals then added instead are just as health-harming. 

Healing benefits

Salt plays a vital role in carrying important nutrients in and out of your cells, along with helping to maintain and regulate blood pressure. Unrefined salt, compared to refined salt, is whole and natural, making it much more easily used and enforced throughout the body. As with all food, our bodies were designed to utilize the whole, natural, undisrupted form and salt is no different. We benefit hugely from the minerals found in unrefined sea salt including magnesium and potassium – which both support a healthy immune system.

Similarly, the enzymes and hormones in our bodies are naturally equipped to work together with salt, and by consuming refined salt, we are disrupting that natural flow. Salt is also hugely important for our bones, as around 27% of our body’s salt content is stored in the bones in the form of crystals, naturally needed to make them hard. Therefore a deficiency in the unrefined kind could lead to osteoporosis as well as the build-up in cell acidity.

Celtic Sea salt

Celtic sea salt is one of the most popular forms of unrefined salt and originates over 2000 years ago with the ancient Celts. It is harvested near the north coast of France through after a natural process that packs the salt full of minerals. Ocean water travels through clay-lined ponds. Benefits include the building of immunity, increased energy, and the balancing of blood sugar.

Himalayan Salt

There is a lot of buzz around pink Himalayan salt at the moment. Many believe that it contains composed elements of the original primal sea, it is therefore said to be the purest on the planet. With health benefits including the promotion of healthy blood sugar levels as well as assisting the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells. It’s great for regulating sleep and supporting libido.

Salt and water

Salt and water are often discussed together, but why is this? When the body begins to collect high amounts of salt, it is doing this because it is attempting to keep more water within the body. Salt and water together actually play a role in bringing to balance a wide-spectrum of conditions and ailments. There can be a loss of salt within the body when there is a sudden and dramatic increase of water, without an increase of salt, added to one’s diet. Salt is key in ensuring the body stays hydrated as it also works the other way, a loss of sodium results in a loss of water – which in turn leads to dehydration. 

How can we tell if there is a shortage of salt in somebody’s diet? Well, the person will often experience muscle cramps and feel faint or dizziness. In his book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, F. Batmanghelidj, MD recommends that for every 10 glasses of water, you should add half a teaspoon of unrefined salt into your diet each day.

Salt and the brain

Helps your brain communicate with the muscles in the body, allowing you to move on-demand through an exciting chemical reaction called the sodium-potassium ion exchange. Lacking in creativity? Salt plays a role in increasing the glial cells in your brain that are needed for creative thinking as well as long term planning and organising. It’s also a key component needed for the firing of neurons, down to the sodium and chloride.

The potassium – sodium ratio

Unrefined sea salt has so many amazing properties, including helping to ensure sufficient sodium levels, ultimately balancing the sodium-potassium ratio. These are two important electrolytes that ensure an optimal fluid level within your cells. Sea salt is high in so many vital minerals, however, an unbalanced diet that puts more emphasis on consuming sodium rather than potassium can lead to hypertension, kidney stones and rheumatoid arthritis.

But what creates this imbalance? A diet rich in processed and fake foods that are high in sodium and lacking in potassium can throw you off centre due to the high processed salt intake. Restore balance by eliminating processed foods and add in a variety of whole, natural foods that are ideally organic. Examples of potassium-rich foods include avocados, spinach, fresh coconut water, and bananas.

Why do we need potassium in our diets? Potassium is extremely helpful in aiding the maintenance of the pH levels in our body’s fluids and well as helping to maintain a healthy nervous system, muscle function, heart, and kidney function as well as the adrenals. Unrefined sea salt is also extremely useful in supporting healthy adrenal glands, which we know produce dozens of vital hormones. Therefore, your sodium-potassium ratio is something to consider for those with hormonal imbalances.

Acidity and alkalinity 

The consumption of a diet high in refined salt and lacking in unrefined, natural salt can be linked to acidity in the body. It’s no secret that keeping the body at a neutral, balanced pH (around 7.2) is important for our health. There are so many different components within our bodies that try there hardest to keep our bodies balanced. However, when the body dips too far one way or the other, everyday functions start to become affected. For example, our kidneys, liver and brain all rely on a balanced pH. Of course, the food we eat affects the internal activity in our body, and salt is no different. Unrefined sea salt is so rich in minerals that help to promote a healthy neutral state, which in turn makes sure the internal organs thrive.

Written by Megan Hallett