Years ago, picking the salt you want at the grocery store was easy, name brand or generic? Today, salt practically has a aisle to itself. In the end you can basically lump all these salt choices into one of two categories, natural or processed.
There is however one big difference you will notice right off the bat, the salt that is processed is much cheaper! With such a premium price for natural salt products, is it really worth it?
The history of salt is as old as history itself. Herodotus wrote about salt trading routes across Libya in the 5th century B.C. and early Roman roads, such as the Via Salaria, were designed to move mass quantities of the mineral to the center of the Empire from the salt mines in Ostia. Salt, equal in value by weight to gold (Moorish merchants in the 6th century would trade salt for gold pound for pound) would often be used to pay Roman soldiers salaries (which is where we get the word “salary”… from the Latin word “salarium”, which describes the Roman practice of using salt as payment). Such heavy esteem for this mineral leads one to wonder, why? Why would so many cultures (past and present) value salt so much?
The Importance of Salt
As it turns out, we need it! Early Nomads who ate animal products did not need to add salt to their diet as the meat they ate contained plenty. However, early agricultural cultures, who ate mostly cereals and grains, needed to add salt to their diet. We actually get the word “salad” from the Roman practice of adding salt to leafed vegetables. So why is salt essential? Basically, it regulates the fluid levels (blood included) in our body. Though we need some salt to maintain healthy levels of fluid retention, too much salt can lead to too much retention leading to increased levels of blood within our veins and arteries. Like a garden hose, pump lots water through it and it gets hard and the pressure increases. This is hypertension. The hardening of arteries and increased blood pressure that is a hallmark of the disease. In addition to regulating fluid levels, salt also provides the body with a essential mineral called Iodine. Deficiency of Iodine has been associated with disorders such as thyroid goiters (tissue masses in the neck) and mental retardation in infants if the mother is affected during pregnancy.
The Dangers of Table Salt
Table salt is unhealthy, and it can be downright toxic to your body! Iodized salt is noted for increasing blood pressure and causing bloating most notably.
Obviously, with salt being so important to humans all over the world, the salt industry is old and huge. Some salt mines have been in continuous operation for over a thousand years. During the past hundred years the industry has made the unfortunate move towards increased processing and fortification (albeit often with good intentions such as decreasing Iodine deficiencies). However, heavy processing during the production of conventional table salt, strips out the other minerals aside from Sodium Chloride. Natural salt contains 85.62% Sodium Chloride and 14.38% other minerals (often; sulphate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate, bromide, borate, strontium and fluoride). So, by heavily processing the salt (in an effort to produce it in mass quantities at low cost) 15% of the nutritional value from salt is eliminated, some of these minerals are hard to replace in a conventional diet.
In addition to removing valuable minerals from salt, the processing used to produce conventional table salt includes introducing man made additives (US law allows for 2% additives in table salt). These are usually bleaching, drying and anti-clumping agents. Also added is Iodine. However, the levels of Iodine needed to overcome the Iodine deficiencies mentioned above would require a unhealthy level of salt intake. In addition, Iodine is present in sufficient quantities and form in sea food, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale and other fruits and vegetables.
A few additional problematic symptoms particular to processed salts are:
- Muscle Cramps
- Heart Disease
- Circulatory System Strain
- Gallbladder/ Kidney Stones
- Digestion Problems
So, remember the next time you consider which salt to season your family with, choose the one sourced naturally from the sea or still in rock form. Himalayan Rock salt has been proven to be one of the most beneficial kinds of salt available for several reasons.