Just as there is good fat and bad fat, there's good and bad salt. Salt provides two essential elements, sodium and chloride. Both are essential to life. Our bodies cannot make these two elements. We must get them from our diets. However, let's look at the differences of unprocessed vs. processed salt:
Natural unprocessed salt, such as grey/green Celtic sea salt, Hawaiian red salt and pink Himalayan salt, contains about 84 percent sodium chloride (just under 37% of which is pure sodium). The remaining 16% are naturally-occurring trace minerals, including silicon, phosphorus, and vanadium.
Processed (white) table salt contains 97.5% sodium chloride (just over 39 % of which is sodium). The rest, 2.5% is man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents and flow agents, such as ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate. The processing also radically alters the structure of the salt. Refined table salt is dried above 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and this excessive heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt.
It is important to realize that most Westerners get the majority of their sodium from commercially available white table salt and the processed foods that contain them—not from natural unprocessed salt, which is not white. This is likely to have a significant bearing on the health value of salt, just as dangerous trans fats in processed foods turned out to be responsible for the adverse health effects previously (and wrongfully) blamed on healthy saturated fats.
Amazingly the DNA in our taste buds still remembers the nutritional benefits in salt. So when our body is trying to tell us that we need certain minerals, we naturally crave salt. If we then consume whole, unrefined mineral-rich salt, this craving is satisfied. If we eat refined salt and processed foods containing refined salts, the mineral imbalance in our bodies is not corrected. As a matter of fast, the more refined salt we eat the worse it gets. Unrefined natural salt is important to many biological processes, however, for every gram of excess sodium chloride that your body has to neutralize, it uses up 23 grams of cellular water. Hence, eating too much common processed salt will cause fluid to accumulate in your tissues, which may contribute to:
- Unsightly cellulite
- Rheumatism, arthritis and gout
- Kidney and gall bladder stones
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
There are many studies on salt consumption that go into far greater detail, but I like to be more practical with just a few basic guidelines:
- Know that if you are craving salt, your body is craving minerals
- Realize that the salt in processed foods (canned and boxed foods, hams, sausages, bacon, chips and crackers, etc. are in most cases salted with white, processed salt that not only lacks minerals but also contains chemicals we don't need
- Look for foods that are made with whole salt, cook your own foods and season with whole salt or buy unsalted foods (such as almond butter or bacon) and season it yourself with whole salt.
It's safe to just relax and salt your food to taste—provided you use a natural unrefined salt.
Read on to learn what health benefits you can find in different colored salts!