Should you eat it? Not eat it? Which, if any, should you use? And really, just what is all the fuss about anyway? It’s just salt… right?
We are going to break down why you need salt or sodium actually, and the different types of salt out there and what, if any, nutritional value they hold.
So, sodium… what is it and why do we need it? It is one of our electrolytes, so yes, we need it! In high school biology we learn about solutions and cell structure. We learn about isotonic (balanced) solution, hypotonic and hypertonic solutions. This is at the cell level. When the cytoplasm (gel inside the cell) has an equal solution (isotonic) to the outside of the cell membrane, all is well. This is called homoeostasis. Your body is constantly trying to achieve this state. When you have too high a concentration (of sodium or potassium) inside the cell (hypertonic solution) it causes the cell to implode or shrivel up to nothing (not good!) When you have too low a concentration inside the cell (hypotonic solution) the cell blows up or explodes (not good either). So, as you can see the correct level of sodium is essential to you on a cellular level. Sodium is essential for muscle and nerve impulses, proper kidney function, and your fluid levels in your blood (which affects your blood pressure). Livestrong.com has a great article on how sodium affects your body.
How do you know if you are getting enough, or too much? The FDA recommends between 1500-2300 mg of sodium a day. Everyone is different and therefore has a different level of need, but this is a good starting point. If you eat processed, boxed or canned foods, chances are you are getting way more than enough sodium and don’t need to worry which type of salt to use, because that would be zero! If you don’t eat this way, awesome! All real whole food has some sodium naturally occurring in it. Adding a little extra in the form of salt can be beneficial as long as it’s not extravagant and the right salt is used. So, which salt to use?
Table Salt with or without Iodine – This salt has been chemically processed and bleached and the nutritional content is none! I have even seen it referred to as toxic and detrimental to your health. Yikes! I don’t know about you, but I’m good without this one! (Don’t worry, sea salt has naturally occurring iodine.)
Sea Salt – This salt comes from the sea and is (ususally) not subjected to any chemical treatments or bleaching (Big plus!!!) It contains a number of trace minerals that your body needs and it is lower in sodium than table salt, so you can use a shake or two more. Here is a great article on the health benefits of sea salt. Sea salt is the preferred salt for fermenting as it is pure and has no chemicals to taint or kill the lactobacillus during the fermentation process. Beware! Some brands add anti-caking agents, read the label! This can be found at any local grocery store.
Celtic Salt – Also known as celtic sea salt. This salt is mined off the coast of France and is grey in color. It has all the health benefits as regular sea salt. If you can’t find it locally you can buy it here.
Himalayan Salt – This salt is known for its pink hew, but it also comes in black. This salt is mined deep in the foothills of the Himalayas in Pakistan. It is reported to have 84 different trace minerals essential to your body. Here is a great article on Himalayan Salt If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it here.
Real Salt – Also known as Real Sea Salt. This is mined in the good ol’ US of A! That’s right people, if you are a fan of buying things made in America this is it! It is mined from an underground ancient sea in Utah. It is not processed and you can see by all the different colors just how diverse the elements in this salt are. There is no processing or additives in this salt. It will cake as there is no anti-caking agent added like with table salt. A friend of ours turned us onto Real Salt (thanks Rich!). In case you can’t tell, this is the one my family uses.
If you are in the Spokane area, Lorien on the South Hill carries the Real Salt packaged and also in bulk. Rosauers in the Natural Food Section also has it in bulk. Mother’s Cupboard has it in the package. These are the places I have personally found it. If you are not in this area, click here to find it locally. If no one carries it, realsalt.com has an online store or a toll free number to have it delivered to your door.
Here is an interesting Infographic about where salts come from.
If you know of any local places to find these different salts (even if you aren’t in Spokane area), please share. As always, we welcome any comments.