Salt is a very essential component that our body needs. And though chemically similar, the various salts are made differently. For instance, sea salt (aka solar salt) is produced by evaporating seawater and harvesting the salt that remains. While table salt is more highly processed. It’s made by refining sea salt to purify the sodium chloride.
Uniquely, salt can also be made by refining rock salt, mined from inland deposits that are the remains of ancient lakes or seas. But, the different production methods have no effect on our health when we eat these salts. Your body needs only a tiny amount of salt — less than one-tenth of a teaspoon per day. An average Kenyan gets nearly 20 times that much.
On the contrary, the body is generally capable of getting rid itself of excess sodium. In some people, though, consuming extra sodium makes the body hold on to water. This increases the amount of fluid flowing through blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure. Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is the chemical name for salt. It consists of 40% sodium and 60% chloride, by weight.
Sodium is an electrolyte that regulates the amount of water in your body. It also plays a big part in nerve impulses and muscle contractions. And in general, salt production’s effect on our health is very huge. Sodium chloride may be taken with or without food. Take sodium chloride with a full glass (8 ounces) of water.
What is Salt good for?
Many health organizations have been warning us about the dangers of salt for a long time. That’s because high salt intake has been claimed to cause a number of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
However, decades of research have failed to provide convincing evidence to support this. What’s more, many studies actually show that eating too little salt can be harmful. Keeping in mind, it’s by far the biggest dietary source of sodium, and the words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably.
Historically, salt was used to preserve food. Bearing in mind, high amounts can prevent the growth of the bacteria that cause food to go bad. Salt is harvested in two main ways.
From the mines and by evaporating seawater or other mineral-rich water. And there are actually many types of salt available. The different types of salt may vary in taste, texture, and color. And in case you’re wondering which type is the healthiest, the truth is that they are all quite similar. So,
Is Salt Good or Bad?
Some amount of salt is naturally found in most foods.
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It’s also frequently added to foods in order to improve flavor. Also, some varieties may contain trace amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc.
Iodine is often added to common table salt. The essential minerals in the Salt act as important electrolytes in the body. They help with fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle function. And as an example, the sodium in salt helps transmit nerve impulses and contract muscle fibers. It also works with potassium to balance fluid levels in the body.
The only ‘healthier’ salts — are the substitutes that are lower in sodium. Simply, because they contain a mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride — and a little magnesium chloride for taste.
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Basically, sodium chloride is used to treat or prevent sodium loss caused by dehydration, excessive sweating, or other causes.
The potassium in potassium chloride also helps lower blood pressure in its own right. But, there are five known ways to cut back on sodium when cooking or at the table:
These 5 ways to cut back on sodium include:
- Use spices and other flavor enhancers. Add flavor to your favorite dishes with spices, dried and fresh herbs, roots (such as garlic and ginger), citrus, vinegar, and wine. From black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric to fresh basil, chili peppers, and lemon juice. These flavor enhancers create excitement for the palate — and with less sodium.
- Go nuts for healthy fats in the kitchen. Using the right healthy fats — from roasted nuts and avocados to olive, canola, soybean, and other oils — can add a rich flavor to foods, minus the salt.
- Sear, sauté, and roast. Searing or sautéing foods in a pan build flavor. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of many vegetables and the taste of fish and chicken. If you do steam or microwave some dishes, perk them up with a finishing drizzle of flavorful oil and a squeeze of citrus.
Read Also: What is Excessive Sugar Intake? | 5 Related Health Risks
- Get your whole grains from sources other than bread. Even whole-grain bread, though a healthier choice than white, can contain considerable sodium. Bread contains quite a bit of salt — not just for flavor, but to ensure that the dough rises properly. You can skip that extra salt when you look for whole grains outside of baking. For example, instead of toast with breakfast, cook up steel-cut oats, farro, or other intact whole grains with fresh or dried fruit.
- Know your seasons, and, even better, your local farmer. Shop for raw ingredients with maximum natural flavor, thereby avoiding the need to add as much (if any) sodium. Shop for peak-of-season produce from farmers’ markets and your local supermarket.
Please Note: You should not take sodium chloride if you have ever had an allergic reaction to it. Or if you have high sodium levels in your blood.
Is sea salt better for you than regular table salt?
Most of the salt that we consume comes from prepared and processed foods. The leading culprits include snack foods, sandwich meats, smoked and cured meats. Also on the list is canned juices, dry and canned soups, pizza, and other fast foods. As well as many condiments, relishes, and sauces — for starters.
But enough of it comes from the salt shaker at home that it’s worth finding alternatives. Not forgetting, ‘straight from the sea’ health claims are a con. Common varieties include Plain Table Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, and Sea Salt. Notably, the Himalayan one has in its purest form the detox blocks. Helping draw out toxins and impurities from the body system.
Read also more about What Is Pink Himalayan Salt?
The pink Himalayan salt is antimicrobial, antiseptic, hypoallergenic, and ionic. Sea salt might be sold as nature’s bounty — but the health claims don’t hold up. For example, sea salt is healthier because it’s unprocessed, sun-dried, and chemical-free.
While it’s generally true that unprocessed foods are much better for you, it’s not in this case. Sea salt, in spite of its raw state, still raises your blood pressure. Since sea salt, like table salt, is essentially sodium chloride it is untrue to describe it as “chemical-free“. The most harmful chemical in table salt is the same as in sea salt — sodium chloride.
It’s the minerals in sea salt that are good for you. It’s unrefined — it contains extra minerals, like magnesium and boron, which our bodies need in minute quantities. The tiny quantities affect the taste but are only beneficial when people have deficiencies that cause disease.
How do I control sodium intake?
Health authorities have been telling us to cut back on sodium for decades. They say you should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, preferably less. This amounts to about one teaspoon, or 6 grams (it is 40% sodium, so multiply sodium grams by 2.5).
Several observational studies have linked high sodium intake with an increased risk of stomach cancer. This may be caused by several factors. Exactly how or why this happens is not well understood, but several theories exist:
- Growth of bacteria: High intake may increase the growth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can lead to inflammation and gastric ulcers. This may increase the risk of stomach cancer.
- Damage to stomach lining: A diet high in salt may damage and inflame the stomach lining, thus exposing it to carcinogens.
There is some evidence suggesting that a low-salt diet can be downright harmful. A low-sodium diet has been linked to higher LDL and triglyceride levels and increased insulin resistance. It may increase the risk of death from heart disease, heart failure, and type 2 diabetes.
The negative health effects include:
- Insulin resistance: Some studies have reported that a low-salt diet may increase insulin resistance.
- Heart failure: One analysis found that restricting salt intake increased the risk of dying for people with heart failure.
- Heart disease: Several studies report that less than 3,000 mg of sodium per day is linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease.
- Elevated LDL cholesterol and triglycerides: Salt restriction has been linked to elevated LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Type 2 diabetes: One study found that in type 2 diabetes patients, less sodium was associated with an increased risk of death.
Eating too much sodium is claimed to raise blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
However, there are some serious doubts about the true benefits of sodium restriction. It is true that reducing the intake can lower blood pressure, especially in people with a medical condition called salt-sensitive hypertension.
Which Foods are High in Sodium?
Most of the sodium in the modern diet comes from restaurant foods or packaged, processed foods. In fact, it is estimated that about 65% of the sodium in our diet comes from processed food. Only 35% of the intake occurs naturally in foods or is added during cooking or at the table.
Salted snack foods, canned and instant soups, processed meat, pickled foods, and soy sauce are examples of high-salt foods. There are also some seemingly un-salty foods that actually contain surprisingly high amounts too. Including bread, cottage cheese, and some breakfast cereals.
Less obvious foods, such as bread and cottage cheese, may also contain a lot. If you are trying to cut back, then food labels almost always list the sodium content. Some health conditions make it necessary to cut back on sodium. If your doctor wants you to limit your intake, then definitely continue to do so.
However, if you are a healthy person who eats mostly whole, single-ingredient foods, then there is probably no need for you to worry about your intake. In this case, you can feel free to add it during cooking or at the table in order to improve flavor. Read and learn more about these foods in this article.
You should not take sodium chloride if you have ever had an allergic reaction to it, or if you have high sodium levels in your blood.
Before you take sodium chloride, tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure, kidney or liver disease, fluid retention (especially around your legs or your lungs), congestive heart failure, preeclampsia of pregnancy if you are on a low-salt diet, or if you are allergic to any foods or drugs.
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Also, stop using sodium chloride and call your doctor at once if you have stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, or swelling in your hands or feet. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse while using sodium chloride.