Sometimes health advice is full of contradictions isn't it? I want to talk about why salt is essential to your health, how much you should be having and why we have all been told to cut back on it for so many years.
The cells in our body need water, essential fatty acid's and the correct ratio of sodium/calcium and potassium/magnesium. So sodium (which is mainly found in salt) along with other electrolytes help us to maintain a proper fluid balance in the body. It is also needed to transmit nerve impulses and contract and relax muscle fibers (including those in the heart and blood vessels). Too much sodium does cause ache's and pains (which can lead to many further health complications like high blood pressure, kidney failure and heart attacks) so it's about striking the right balance.
For most of us, we have always consumed white table salt, this is what you find in most restaurants and abundantly in processed foods include sauces, salad dressings, cured meats, bacon, pickles, stock, instant soup, roasted salted nuts, snacks, fast foods, ready meals and canned foods. Table salt has been highly processed, heated above 1000 degrees and the result is mostly chemical sodium chloride. It also has chemicals added to prevent clumping and is highly addictive.
Natural salt, on the other hand has up to 84 minerals. So what is natural salt?, well, you have sea salt, himalayan salt and grey salts. There are also less well known black and red salts from Countries like India and Hawaii.
Sea salt contains a rich array of minerals and some good sources are Falksalt, Celtic sea salt, Maldon salt and Halen mon (anglesey) salt. Just be mindful though, if it is sparkling white it has been bleached.
Himalayan salt has the full range of 84 minerals that the body needs and is good for health (in the right quantities), it's also higher in iron hence the pink hue. We have to consider that it's not local and not sustainable though. Grey salts tend to be higher in magnesium but otherwise have a similar mineral balance to pink salt.
I don't believe it is wise to follow a completely salt free diet, our own body is a master at knowing what we need and we do like salty flavours after all. Saying that it is also important not to over consume salt. There are of course guidelines on the maximum amount of salt you should be having but it's difficult to track this daily. So this is how I regulate my salt intake:
I avoid processed foods as much as possible
I'm conscious of how often I eat at restaurants and I don't add salt at the table
I eat a mainly whole-foods diet and don't add salt to my cooking
I season when at the table, with a natural salt. This way it is a very difficult to over consume salt as your tastebuds regulate you.
I keep on of top of my water intake as this helps the kidneys balance your electrolytes and circulate them around the body
Tip: If you are having fish and chips, ask them to hold the salt and add your own good quality salt at home.
You also will find salt naturally in some foods like vegetables, examples include seaweeds, carrots and celery. If you are are in pain or have high blood pressure try and use alternative products when cooking like bragg amino acids or marigold liquid aminos, these products are lower in sodium than say soy sauce or tamari and still add lots of flavour.
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to still enjoy your good quality salt and keep your body well balanced for good health.
As always wishing you health and happiness