the legend of salt

Low sodium products have recently emerged in the grocery store as a way to achieve a healthy blood pressure and weight. These products, in combination with the amount of publicity low-sodium diets have received, have created a low sodium empire that affect the way we season our meals, cook and preserve food, and buy. Unfortunately, salt has been given an all-over bad rap based on the modern product, refined salt, that is so incredibly marketable, long-lasting and easy to produce.

”]To be clear: I am not promoting a high-sodium diet based on cheez-its and table salt at the average chain restaurant. This kind of salt is devoid of nutrients and contains chemicals that harm the immune system and dehydrate the body.

First, it is essential to go over the difference in refined v. unrefined salt:

Refined Salt Facts *-

  • the salt refining process includes mechanical harvesting, mechanical evaporation, chemical treatment to remove “impurities” aka minerals [these treatments often include sulfuric acid or chlorine], high heat compression and evaporation [which disrupts the molecular structure of the salt], and finally, the moisture that remains is removed in a “fluidized-bed dryer.” all of this for the sake of a clean pour!
  • up to 2% of “food-grade” salt [refined] may contain anti-caking or conditioning agents. these agents are products which have been proven to have no positive effects in the body, including ferro-cyanide, ammonium citrate, and aluminum silicate.
  • salt is refined to increase shelf life from a reasonable amount of time to forever.
  • the all-white look of refined salt is considered “clean” and is accepted in all kitchens.
  • the refining process will remove impurities inherent in the salt if it is collected from a polluted area.

Unrefined Salt Facts –

  • in a quality unrefined salt, such as Celtic Sea Salt, the salt should be clean upon harvesting, therefore negating the need for the “cleansing” of the refining process
  • the salt should contain all of the natural minerals and elements associated with its origin.
  • no chemicals are used in the production of high quality, unrefined salt.
  • unrefined salt is a whole, natural food that can be highly utilized in the body.
  • This form of salt contains a healthy balance of sodium and over 80 other trace elements that help the body digest and utilize the sodium.

the clumps are worth dealing with

So, why not just cut all salt out and save all the trouble? Low-sodium diets are actually dangerous. This diet, suggested by health practitioners, can actually cause nutrient deficiencies like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and B-vitamins. Without these nutrients, a person can actually predispose him or herself to heart trouble.

What is confusing about this is why, if the low-sodium diet can be incredibly dangerous, is it still promoted so heavily by doctors? The basic answer is that “salt” has been defined as:

salt, as you once knew it

This brings me to the dehydration issue: a real problem today. Water is, obviously, one of the most important aspects to maintaining a healthy ecosystem as well as keeping your brain running. The things we consume in the day, even if they are liquid, sometimes can cause us to become more dehydrated.

coffee, a common culprit

fruit juice....high in sugar, low in hydration

caffeinated sodas and teas are a couple more ways that we continuously draw necessary water out of our bodies. the consumption of unrefined salt in combination with the heavy and continuous consumption of water will lead to a healthy, balanced internal ecosystem. this is partially because of how the body reacts to dehydration and how it reacts to a salt deficiency. The kidneys, upon recognition of salt deprivation, will work overtime to hold onto the salt present in the body, which will eventually lead to kidney problems. The sole consumption of water won’t reverse this problem, the body needs minerals which are, thankfully and naturally, present in unrefined salt. the bond between these two dietary elements is incredibly important in achieving optimal health.

the coloration is key

My best advice, when it comes to adding salt back into the diet, is to do it right away and with reckless abandon. Purchase a good quality brand of unrefined sea salt, such as Celtic Sea Salt, and use it to season any food you eat. Drink water throughout the day, liberally salt your foods, and enjoy the benefits.

* This post contains facts found in the book “Salt Your Way To Health” by David Brownstein, M.D.

Brownstein, Dr. David. Salt Your Way To Health. 2nd ed. 1. West Bloomfield, Michigan: Medical Alternatives Press, 2010. Print.

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8 thoughts on “the legend of salt

  1. thedailydish says:

    6 years ago, I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, a chronic disease of the inner ear causing deafness, tinnitus and vertigo. If I had not eliminated salt from my diet, today I would be a VERY different person. Everybody needs 500 mg sodium in their daily diet to maintain good health, but most people consume far more salt than necessary, and certainly far more than is healthy. I run a low sodium recipe site called The Daily Dish and must argue against your description of low-sodium diets as “dangerous.” I fear you are suffering from extreme misinformation.

    • ariel says:

      The claims I am making are by no means going to apply to everyone. The problem with making a claim is that there are going to be exceptions to everything, no matter how much research I do. Your comment definitely shows that different paths work for different people, especially when medical conditions arise.
      It is encouraging to hear your success with the diet you were prescribed. My grandmother suffers from Meniere’s Disease and has been prescribed a low sodium diet by her doctor as well. It has not given her the results she needs. A number of factors could cause her lack of results, but I do think it’s worth noting.
      My main point in posting what I did was to show the difference between table salt and the salt that is mineral rich and available to us naturally. I am attempting to show that when you step outside of what is so readily available, in terms of conventional food, some surprising changes can occur.

  2. thedailydish says:

    Thanks, Ariel, for the follow up. I wish your grandmother all the best in her own quest for health. Meniere’s is a terrible disease, and I am so sorry to hear the diet is not helping her much. Please feel free to pass along my website, perhaps she could find some recipes or products which might assist. Has she tried a diuretic? (Rhetorical question, really – no need to answer) But many who suffer from Meniere’s have success with those. Anyway, all the best to you and your family. My skeptical comment aside, I very much like your blog. You write beautifully.

    The Daily Dish

    • ariel says:

      That’s really sweet of you. I’ll investigate and send on some ideas to her, she’s always up for trying new things. Also, maybe she just wasn’t hitting the exact right combination of foods. I appreciate the follow-up, I’m sure you know it’s hard to stake a claim on the wide world of the internet and stick up for it when there are so many different ways to tackle health problems. You’re very nice to say what you did. Thank you!

  3. Chelsea says:

    Mmm.. I want to eat big piles of all of this salt. I want to put it on my vegetables and my chocolate.

    Appetizers > desserts.
    Seasoned hash browns > pancakes
    Salted sunflower seeds > everything else on the planet

    Wait, am I weird? Why do I have constant salt cravings? Shouldn’t all my estrogen make me want to bathe in chocolate fountains and eat cupcakes for breakfast?

  4. bjt35 says:

    Ariel! I love this post, its time someone took up the banner for unrefined salts, but you don’t seem to have mentioned one of the best things about these fantastically varied salts — the taste! Unrefined salts all have such wonderful and different tastes depending on the specific area they came from. Personally I’m a huge fan of Fleur de sel, it just has this extra flavor that table salt could never match…

    • ariel says:

      No kidding! Unrefined salts can MAKE a dish, especially baked dishes – using the salt grinder on a coarse setting adds a special flavor to everything. We use Fleur de Sel where I work and it’s the main event in two sweet treats: chocolate cookies and caramel ice cream. People go crazy over it! You are SO right about that. Thanks!

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