Why Sea Salt?
One of the biggest challenges of eating healthy in a modern world has to do with reducing the amount of salt and sodium in our diets. According to the American Heart Association, consuming too much salt can cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart disease and other health problems, and it is not surprising that The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest reducing salt/sodium in your daily diet.
What most people do not know is that the reason salt is so dangerous to our bodies is not just because of the quantity of salt, but also because of the quality of salt consumed!
What we know as “salt” today has nothing to do with salt in its natural form. What remains after rock salt is processed and “chemically cleaned” is sodium chloride — an unnatural chemical form of salt that your body recognizes as something completely foreign. Table salt is actually 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemicals such as moisture absorbents, and iodine. Dried at over 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, the excessive heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt. This form of salt is in almost every preserved product that you eat. Therefore, when you add more salt to your already salted food, your body receives more salt than it can dispose of. Typical table salt crystals are totally isolated from each other. In order for your body to try to metabolize table salt crystals, it must sacrifice tremendous amounts of energy. Inorganic sodium chloride can keep you from an ideal fluid balance and can overburden your elimination systems. When your body tries to isolate the excess salt you typically expose it to, water molecules must surround the sodium chloride to break them up into sodium and chloride ions in order to help your body neutralize them. To accomplish this, water is taken from your cells in order to neutralize the unnatural sodium chloride. This results in a less-than-ideal fluid balance in the cells.
For every gram of sodium chloride that your body cannot get rid of, your body uses 23 times the amount of cell water to neutralize the salt. Eating common table salt causes excess fluid in your body tissue, which can contribute to:
Kidney and gall bladder stones
Rheumatism, arthritis and gout
Sodium is also the part of salt that increases blood pressure. While your body needs sodium to hold water in the blood vessels and regulate water balance in all parts of the body, if too much sodium is consumed, too much water is then held in the body, and the amount of blood increases. If it increases too much, serious problems will arise. The increase in blood makes the heart work harder, which can result in high blood pressure. When high blood pressure is not controlled, it can lead to a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease.
How much sodium is too much?
Health experts recommend 1,100 – 3,300 mg of sodium per day for healthy adults. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for most people. The average person consumes 2,300 to 6,900 mg per day, which contributes to the prevalence of serious health issues we see today. African Americans, Hispanics, and obese individuals are especially sensitive to salt. Salt/sodium is found in most processed foods, and just one teaspoon of salt contains 2,000 mg of sodium. Just by replacing processed (including frozen) meals and snack foods with fresh foods, and making your own soups and stews instead of buying canned, you would eliminate a significant amount of dangerous table salt from your diet!
The Benefits of Sea Salt
Salt is essential for life — you cannot live without it. However, most people simply don’t realize that there are enormous differences between the standard, refined table and cooking salt most of you are accustomed to using and natural health-promoting salt. Unlike refined table salt, sea salt balances and nutrifies your body with minerals. While the sodium content of table salt and sea salt are exactly the same, sea salt in conjunction with water and in the right proportion is essential for not just the regulation of blood pressure, but overall health and vitality. It helps maintain the electrolytes in the body, which are essential for processing information and communication of the brain cells, and supplies essential minerals directly to our cells to enhance and improve the body’s immune system and increases resistance against infections and bacterial diseases. Since sea salt is not refined like table salt, it contains minerals like:
There are other trace minerals in sea salt as well, over 100, all of which your body needs to function properly. The health benefits of sea salt are numerous, and include:
Inducing proper sleep
Promoting efficient working of the liver, kidneys and the adrenal glands
Aiding in food absorption from the intestinal tract and maintains the level of sugar in the blood, hence reducing the risk of diabetes
Playing an important role in curing the lungs of mucus plugs and sticky phlegm, especially if you suffer from asthma or cystic fibrosis
As sea salt supplies essential nutrients to the muscles, it helps in preventing muscle cramps
Acting as a strong natural antihistamine by keeping the body at the right pH (this helps by maintaining the body’s acidic level and preventing different health problems and degenerative diseases)
The iodine in sea salt is helpful when working to integrate this essential mineral into the diet. While it is also added to some table salts during processing, iodine occurs naturally in salt harvested from the sea. The recommended daily allowance for iodine is 150 micrograms, and while most people easily meet or surpass this amount, individuals living in areas where this essential nutrient is lacking in soil and food may benefit from the iodine in sea salt.
There are hundreds of different brands of sea salt and all are made in much the same way and derived from an ocean or sea. Sea salt is harvested by channeling sea water into large bins made of pure clay. The water is allowed to evaporate leaving just the salt crystals. Sea salt has a delicate flavor and makes a good all purpose table salt. It normally comes in three grinds, from fine to coarse. Some retailers may sell sea salts that are fine-grained and white in color. If you want to enjoy the advantages of sea salt, be sure that the sea salt you buy is unrefined and contains the minerals and trace minerals that your body needs. If the salt is white and flows very nicely, one must be suspicious that this salt is processed. You can find a variety of unrefined sea salts at your local health food store and at some gourmet markets. Just make sure to read the label closely and know what you are purchasing!
Below is a brief overview of several different types of sea salt and their differences in origin, taste, and uses:
Italian Sea Salt
Italian sea salt is produced off the coast of Sicily. It is Interesting to note that the Italian sea salt has less sodium chloride than table salt.
The salt is gathered in the same way as regular sea salt. Its delicate flavor lends itself best to use as a finishing salt, to be added once a dish is complete. It is wonderful in salads, on sliced sun ripe tomatoes with a little olive oil, or sprinkled on to meat just before serving.
Celtic Sea Salt
Celtic salt is harvested from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brittany, France. The salt is harvested as it has been for centuries, with wooden rakes. Traditionally no metal is supposed to come in contact with the salt to maintain the purest and most delicate flavor.
Grey Sea Salt
Grey sea salt is a salt that is collected in the same way as Celtic sea salt and from the same area. It is a purplish gray color. This color comes from the inclusion of clay that is found in the salt flats where the salt is collected.
Grey salt is one of the best quality finishing salts available. It is wonderful on salads, sprinkled on flavored butters, or used on vegetables.
Fleur de Sel
Literally “flower of the sea” Fleur de Sel salt is made up of salt crystals that form naturally on the surface of the salt evaporation ponds. These crystals must be harvested under specific conditions. Most Fleur de Sel comes from Guerande , France. The flavor is unusual and delicate. It is a finishing salt used in salads, vegetables and grilled meats as well as to top some desserts such as caramels.
Black salt has a sulfuric flavor and is used primarily in Indian cooking. The flavor is reminiscent of eggs and is sometimes used by vegans to add an eggy taste to salads and tofu dishes. In traditional Indian dishes it is used in fruit salads, chutneys, and raitas.
Black salt is not a sea derived salt but is mined from the earth. It should not be used as an all purpose salt because of the flavor.
Hawaiian Red Sea Salt
Hawaiian Red salt is colored with natural iron oxide which imparts a subtle flavor to this salt. It is a finishing salt that is perfect for grilled meats. The iron oxide caused the salt to be any color from red to pink, depending on the amount of the mineral in the salt.
Smoked Sea Salt
Smoked sea salt is exactly that. It is sea salt that has been smoked in various ways to add an additional layer of flavor.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Although Himalayan Pink salt is harvested from the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains it is technically a sea salt. It is a marine fossil salt formed eons ago. It carries numerous trace minerals and is a delicious and beautiful finishing salt. Due to the purity and rich mineral content, it is also our personal favorite!