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Rainbow Kitchen

Salt – Shake It On

By Allison St. Claire
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A new study, which tracked more than 100,000 people from 17 countries over an average of more than three years, found that those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27% higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams.

No doubt all the information – and misinformation – about how much salt we should consume has been swirling about you like, well, like “when it rains it pours” flakes of salt. Too much? Too little? The amount we consume is important, but what kind matters above all else.

As the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, among others, recently reported: Current guidelines from U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and other groups set daily dietary sodium targets between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams or lower, well below the average U.S. daily consumption of about 3,400 milligrams.

However, numerous studies contradict those guidelines. A new study, for example, which tracked more than 100,000 people from 17 countries over an average of more than three years, found that those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27% higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams. Risk of death or other major events increased with intake above 6,000 milligrams.

Here’s what we really need to remember, according to Jon Barron, noted independent health researcher: Not all sources of sodium and salt are the same. As far as the body is concerned, there is no connection between the chemically-cleansed sodium chloride table salt you buy in the supermarket (which is also added to virtually every processed food you buy) and mineral-rich organic unrefined sea salt available in health food stores and online. One can kill you; the other heals you. In fact, it's essential for life.

Some foods naturally high in sodium/salt are fish, eggs, nuts, prawns, crabs, lobsters and seaweed.  (Note: all of these natural sources of salt are also natural sources of iodine.) Other naturally occurring sources of sodium are celery, carrots, cauliflower, pineapples, jackfruits, and even fresh cow's milk.

We have two distinct choices when it comes to salt: unrefined and refined. Unrefined salt (sea salt) is 97.5% sodium chloride (with up to 14% of that being moisture content in some brands) and 2.5% consisting of some 50+ other trace minerals. Refined salt is also 97.5% sodium chloride, but the other 2.5% no longer consists of trace minerals, but rather, chemical additives.

Refined salt is a manmade creation of the last century that contains anti-caking chemicals and added iodine. Refined salt is processed at high temperatures altering the molecular structure of the salt (not good) and removing the beneficial trace minerals. The human body doesn't like it.

Unrefined sea salt supplies all 92 vital trace minerals, thereby promoting optimum biological function and cellular maintenance. This is the form of salt the body recognizes and is designed to use. Note: much of the salt labeled "sea salt" is actually refined table salt unless the package is clearly labeled "unrefined." (This is also true for Kosher salt.)

Here is a partial list of the minerals found in unrefined salt and their function in human metabolism:

  • Sodium: Essential to digestion and metabolism, regulates body fluids, nerve and muscular functions.
  • Chlorine: Essential component of human body fluids.
  • Calcium: Needed for bone mineralization.
  • Magnesium: Dissipates sodium excess, forms and hardens bones, ensures mental development and sharpens intelligence, promotes assimilation of carbohydrates, assures metabolism of vitamin C and calcium, retards the aging process and dissolves kidney stones.
  • Sulfur: Controls energy transfer in tissue, bone and cartilage cells, essential for protein compounds.
  • Silicon: Needed in carbon metabolism and for skin and hair balance.
  • Iodine: Vital for energy production and mental development, ensures production of thyroid hormones, needed for strong auto-defense mechanism (lymphatic system).
  • Bromine: In magnesium bromide form, a nervous system regulator and restorer, vital for pituitary hormonal function.
  • Phosphorus: Essential for biochemical synthesis and nerve cell functions related to the brain, constituent of phosphoproteins, nucleoproteins and phospholipids.
  • Vanadium: Of greater value for tooth bone calcification than fluoride, tones cardiac and nervous systems, reduces cholesterol, regulates phospholipids in blood, and a catalyst for the oxidation of many biological substances.

Separate from the science Barron cites above, on a personal note, I used to crave salt to the point of obliterating the natural taste of a lot of foods. Once I realized that this vital nutrient – unrefined salt with all the minerals still present and not just a naked sodium chloride molecule – really is worth the extra cost and now use it exclusively, my craving has disappeared. I still like salt, but I realize my body was crying out for all those other minerals it needed and had no other source for. A few grains suffice.

So good ahead. Brine your meats, zest up your veggies, enhance the sweetness of fruits such as grapefruit and watermelon without adding sugar; buy the salt-free versions of what processed foods you still want (but secretly loathe because they taste so bland) and salt them to taste with the good, unrefined stuff while greatly enhancing your health.

 


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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

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