We’ve finally concluded that white flour and refined sugar are stripped-down unhealthy composites of nutritious whole foods. Now its time we consider table salt with the same perspective.
Refined table salts start innocently enough: they’re collected from sea water (often from not-so-pristine locales such as the South San Francisco Bay) or harvested from underground salt mines.
After water-flushing, table salt manufacturers will typically treat and precipitate out unwanted elements using chemical agents such as barium, sulfuric acid and chlorine. The resulting brine is vacuum-evaporated, and anti-caking chemicals such as tricalcium phosphate, silica dioxide, sodium ferrocyanide, ferric ammonium citrate and/or sodium silico-aluminate may be added, depending upon the manufacturer.
Many manufacturers also add iodine and dextrose; and many foreign manufacturers add fluoride. The result is ‘purified’ salt—around 99% sodium chloride: A miracle of industrial modification.(1,2)
Unrefined whole salt health benefits
Yet humans have treasured unrefined whole salts for their health-giving, anti-microbial and culinary properties for thousands of years.
Natural whole salt chipped from mines or solar-evaporated from water is not simply sodium chloride. Whole salt may contain up to 80 minerals and trace elements:(3) Important minerals such as potassium, which primarily resides inside the cell membrane to balance sodium levels on the outside of the cell membrane; as well as trace elements such as boron, silica and zinc—all essential to healthy bones, muscles, nerves and enzymatic metabolism. Over the past few years research is beginning to connect mineral and trace element deficiencies with a host of ailments, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and a number of autoimmune disorders.(4,5)
Though whole salt’s levels of macro minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium may not reach daily recommended allowance levels, whole salt contains a balanced spectrum of the trace elements missing from many modern diets.
Whole salt is also alkalizing; helping to neutralize free-radicals. Many holistic practitioners believe the crystalline structure of whole salt also renders its mineral ions more easily and energetically absorbed.
Whole salt’s potential ability to assist in detoxification is also gaining attention. Some holistic doctors such as Dr. Randy Baker, M.D. of Santa Cruz, CA, are reporting success with whole salts used adjunctively as anti-microbial/anti-parasitic agents. Dr. David Brownstein, M.D. of West Bloomfield, MI notes that “unrefined salt helped improve the immune system and the hormonal system, as well as other areas of the body” among his patients.(6,7)
But isn’t sodium bad for us?
Though higher table salt consumption has been implicated in hypertension, edema, ulcers and osteoporosis; low-sodium diets may also be dangerous. A 1998 study led by Michael Alderman, M.D. awakened us to this possibility when it showed a greater mortality rate among lower sodium users within a population of 11,348 participants.(8) As a result, many physicians now admit that both too much or too little sodium may stress the body. Although peer-reviewed research is lacking on whole salts, holistic doctors like Dr. Brownstein have observed reductions in blood pressure among patients using whole salts. Customer testimonials from whole salt companies also appear to be consistent with this theory.(6,9)
How about iodine?
Isn’t white salt our primary source of iodine? It shouldn’t be. For a narrow diet devoid in dairy, berries like strawberries, sea vegetables and land vegetables, there may be a risk of low-iodine levels. Although studies have related regional goiter levels to low-iodine levels, other studies like a 35,999-person study done among 10 states in the U.S. found no relationship between goiter and low-iodine intake. (In fact, this study showed higher goiter levels among higher iodine excretion levels.)(10) Higher goiter levels have also been seen among adequate iodine diets, and some research has related mal-absorption to be the causal issue.(11,12)
In a low-iodine diet, white iodized salt may be a reasonable source, however as in any isolated supplement program, we must realize that iodine absorption and utilization is dependent upon full-spectrum nutrition.
For example, the body requires minerals like selenium to properly process iodine into T3 and T4, and selenium is typically present in whole salts. It should also be noted that a mere 1.6g of iodized salt will result in approximately 122µg of iodine, while absorbing diets under 100µg of iodine appear to be adequate for goiter prevention, while excess iodine diets have been linked to chronic high volume thyroid disorders.(13,14)
Beware of sea salt imposters: How to identify REAL sea salt
Though the term ‘sea salt’ conjures the ocean, experts agree that all salt is ‘sea salt’—even salt mines are just ancient sea beds. Meanwhile the term ‘sea salt,’ whole salt manufacturers complain, is also a source of confusion to
consumers looking for whole salt. Be aware of salts labeled “sea salt” or “natural sea salt,” they say. Even the most refined salt can be called “sea salt.”
Seashore-evaporated whole salts like Grey Sea Salt, Fleur de Sel, Hawaiian Alaea, and Peruvian Pink come from seashores around the world—usually from relatively-pristine, remote shorelines. Many of these handcrafted, unrefined whole salts are considered gourmet culinary salts—with each salt’s unique mineral composition ‘finishing’ food with distinct flavor.(15)
Celtic Light Grey Sea Salt® is one of the more well-known of these gourmet whole salts. Traditionally-harvested on the French coast of Brittany by hand, this artisan salt is unique because the natural evaporation clay-base is thought to add beneficial elements while absorbing toxins. Boasting a mere 82% sodium-chloride level (with 12%+ moisture), this salt contains a number of macro and trace minerals, based on independent analysis. The company also distributes a wonderful high-end finishing salt, called Flower of the Ocean®.(16)
Consider mineral-rich mined whole salt crystals
Although a traditional source of salt for thousands of years, mined whole salt has recently been gaining attention in the natural health community. These ancient underground whole salts are pressurized into complex crystalline form over millions of years of volcanic and tetonic plate movement.
One such cache lies within the famous Pakistan salt range—the oldest working salt mine in Asia—said to be 200-250 million years old. Still harvested by local traditional miners, its crystallized rock salt is labeled and distributed after importation into the U.S. Leading importers include Power Organics, Inc. and American BlueGreen, LLC who sell under Miracle Krystal Salt® and Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® brands, respectively.
One independent lab assay showed over 80 elements—albeit many in minute, almost homeopathic quantities—with sodium chloride levels over 97%. The larger, pinkish salt crystal rocks are also sold as negative ion lamps, which are said to remove impurities and energize indoor space.(17,18)
Mineral-rich pink rock salt is also found in the United States. Redmond Minerals, Inc. mines and produces the popular RealSalt® brand from their 155 million year old volcanic ash-covered salt mine near Redmond, Utah. This leading all-natural whole salt is hand-selected from rock harvests before crushing. Independent assay reports RealSalt® at around 97% sodium chloride with up to 74 minerals and trace elements within the remaining 3%. RealSalt® is available in various sizes for cooking or finishing; from powder to coarse. And for the ultimate in rejuvenation hydrotherapy, try their bath salt.(19)
Whole salts are DELICIOUS!
As almost every chef worth his/her spatula agrees, whole salts add exquisite taste to any meal due to their mineral content—each whole salt lending its own unique flavor.
Both RealSalt® and Celtic Light Grey Sea Salt® have won culinary awards for their distinct taste.
Meanwhile Dr. Gabriel Cousins’ Tree of Life Center in Arizona serves Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® with every meal and detox—the energetics are complimentary.
|Opitz’ Five Element Smoothie (20)|
|Delicious and nutritious!
• Put the lemon in the blender with sweet fruits and blend.
• Add brine, cayenne, and spring water and blend to a creamy consistency.
• Add flax oil and blend for a few more seconds.
• Consume immediately