I was surprised and happy to see that Consum now stocks not only Pink Himalayan Salt but now recently, the Black version. But why should I be advocating salt? All we hear these days is how bad salt is for us? Salt has gotten a really bad rap over the last few years. But why and regardless if it’s black, blue, grey, red or pink, surely salt is salt, isn’t it?
Why we need salt
You can go to the bible and read about salt. The word “salary” comes from salt and it’s the origin of the saying that something is “not worth its weight in salt.” It was once very valuable.
When we speak about intake of salt, we are talking about sodium chloride which is one of a list of essential nutrients that our bodies cannot produce and thus must be consumed in foods and drink. Salt is roughly 40% sodium. There are other trace nutrients that can be found in salts such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc but they are very minute. Each nutrient plays a vital role in the functioning physiology of your body. Sodium has a higher concentration in salt than the other nutrients and it’s this one that worries people. Both salt and sodium chloride are sometimes used interchangeably.
Why we need sodium
Apart from keeping us hydrated, salt plays a vital role in regulating the muscles, the heart, the nervous system, and brain function. It also helps regulate blood pressure. If you like to cook, you probably only add salt to taste and right at the end. Another reason salt is kept until then can be because it absorbs liquid, like a supermini sponge. Well, it does the same thing inside your body. Sodium acts like a sponge and pulls fluid into your blood. The problem is that too much of it can pull too much fluid overtime increasing pressure in your blood vessels causing damage to the blood linings possibly causing clots to form and these as we know too well can cause heart attack and strokes.
Problems sleeping could mean too much salt in your diet.
The water retention in your body can also affect your sleep. This fluid in and around the upper airway can obstruct the pharynx when you lie down to go asleep and this can cause sleep apnea. This is a disorder that can cause shallow breathing and breathing disturbances during your sleep. In the end, you can wake up feeling more tired as if you hadn’t slept at all.
So how much do we need / not need?
According to SONA (Suggested Optimal Nutritional Allowances), both men and women need a minimum of 400mg per day. If you think that 1 teaspoon of salt contains 5 grams, you can imagine, it would be impossible to eat so little per day, so we are advised by the Institute of Medicine and various other organizations to limit the consumption to 1.5g per day with a maximum of 2.3gs per day.
And here lieth the problem.
“I’m sorry.. But how little?”. About ½ a teaspoon of salt a day. How much salt do you add to your meals and how many meals do you cook a day? Hand on heart, we’re probably all-consuming at least 2-3 teaspoons a day in the food that we prepare. Also, don’t forget that although quite a little, there are some fruit and vegetables that contain sodium. But here’s the cruncher…”in the food WE prepare”. What happens when we go to the restaurant for example?. If something is too salty, you can just send it back. But the biggest problem is the hidden salts in food that we can’t taste because we’ve become so accustomed to it. Have you ever tried bread without salt? Eeek! It’s the same problem we have with that other white powder we love so much. Just like sugar, we are also addicted to salt. Packaged foods we buy on the shelf in the supermarket, all contain salt as it’s also used as a preservative to extend shelf life. The problem is we don’t really know how much and it seems to be in everything we buy!
So what’s the answer?
It’s very simple, if you have to buy anything that comes from a shelf in the supermarket, keep them to a minimum. It’s so very easy to make your own sauces and add them to cooked meats and vegetables and thereby monitoring yourself the salt that is added. Just like sugar, the issue is with the processed and ultra-processed foods that contain unspecific and hidden quantities.
During quarantine, apart from alcohol, sales of potato crisps, nuts, dark chocolate, and olives have all gone up. These all contain salt. Now that we are very slowly starting to return to some type of normality, our diets could follow suit. It is possible to buy nuts without salt and you can then apply your own, at least you know how much there is.
But If you do notice that you are thirsty all the time, that you need to pee a lot, maybe that you’re feeling bloated especially in the morning. If you’re got kidney stones, stomach ulcers, or high blood pressure, these can be symptoms of too much sodium in your system.
So which one?
Comes from underground salt deposits. It has been bleached and then baked into shimmering white crystals. This is one that I advise my clients to cut out or greatly reduce because it’s highly processed. Moreover, a lot of table salt has also been iodized. This was a result of the iodine-poor diets that were causing the thyroid disease goiters in the early part of the 21st Century. They also contain additives and even hidden sugars. But if your diet consists of real, whole foods, you don’t need iodized salt.
I don’t recommend sea salt because of all the plastic there is now in the oceans.
Himalayan Pink Salt
From the worst to the best..in my opinion. From the depths of the earth, the Khewra Salt Mine in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan, this is the purest form of salt that you can buy in that it hasn’t been treated or bleached or danced on and this is what you need to remember. My aim is to encourage people to eat clean food, real food, and this is as real as salt comes.
Himalayian Black Salt (aka kala namak)
This was introduced to me by a very good friend of mine a couple of years ago, before that, I’d never even seen or heard anything about it. It came up in conversation as we were speaking of scrambled tofu that he did and he was using Black Salt instead of the above H. salt because it smells and tastes of eggs! I know! I didn’t believe him and even when I bought it and had a quick smell, I had my doubts. But it’s a magical thing, as soon as you put it on food, your kitchen is filled with the smell of eggs! So nowadays, it’s always in my kitchen, next to the H Salt, and anytime any meal that I could that calls for an egg, I sprinkle a little on and trust me, you only need a little.
To sum up
Don’t sweat it about salt. It is sacred for our physiology but just be mindful about how much goes into your body. Try to keep it to 3 teaspoons per day which even if you go over, is still safe.
There are many articles about the wondrous healing properties of each Himalayan salt, but they are either unsupported or have been debunked. I use and always recommend the pink and black over table salt and sea salt because it hasn’t been processed…not yet anyway.