By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
You may think of salt and automatically think of the negative stigmas ABC corporations like the American Heart Association (AHA) have created. Although the AHA is on the right track with some recommendations, they’re not considering the many types of salts and their quality; they’re predominantly talking about table salt.
When it comes to table salt, we have iodized and non-iodized. Non-iodized table salt combines two minerals – sodium and chloride (1). Contrarily, iodized table salt means the synthetically manufactured chemical element iodine has been added to the salt (2). Some believe this is a necessary additive because our bodies don’t naturally produce iodine, but anything synthetic is always cautioned against. That’s not counting added ingredients.
Let’s take a look at the popular salt brand, Morton. Their plain salt ingredients include salt and calcium silicate (an anti-caking agent), while their iodized salt ingredients are salt, calcium silicate (an anti-caking agent), dextrose, and potassium iodide. Lots of unnecessary filler ingredients we could do without.
Nonetheless, the human body requires approximately 500 mg of sodium daily to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the proper balance of water and minerals (3). Chloride helps regulate the amount of fluid and types of nutrients going in and out of the cells (4).
Unfortunately, extra sodium in the bloodstream pulls water into your blood vessels, which increases the total amount (volume) of blood inside them. With more blood flowing through your blood vessels, blood pressure rises. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed up plaque build-up leading to a heart attack (5).
It’s estimated that Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. Yet, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day and is leaning more towards an ideal limit of 1,500mg per day for an adult (6). No wonder it’s become so problematic.
Benefits of Salt
Unlike table salt, Himalayan pink salt and sea salt varieties have many health benefits as long as it’s being consumed appropriately. Unfortunately, there is a lot of controversy surrounding salt, but it seems negative effects typically come from too much salt. That’s why moderation is key; too much of anything, even water, can be bad for you. So let’s discuss the benefits.
May Aid Hydration & Blood Pressure
As I said earlier, sodium helps maintain the proper balance of water and minerals, so not getting enough of it can lead to dehydration or blood pressure changes. Dehydration occurs when body water is lost with or without salt, especially during high-intensity exercise (7). Proper bodily fluid balance is also crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels (8). Consuming too little or too much sodium can lead to blood pressure changes in those sensitive to dietary salt (9).
May Promote Digestive Health
Drinking Himalayan pink salt mixed with lukewarm water aids in digestion (10). These digestive benefits are possible because chloride is essential to produce stomach acid, and sodium chloride (salt) stimulates the absorption and transportation of nutrients in the intestines after they have been broken down during digestion (11). With that said, consuming balanced quantities of salt promotes optimal digestive health.
May Help Sleeping Problems
With 50 to 70 million adults in the United States affected by a sleep disorder (12), low-salt diets may contribute to the problem. One study suggests that adequate salt intake may be necessary for quality sleep (13). Contrarily, too much salt intake can also contribute to sleep disturbances (14). So again, like many things, moderation is key. Are you looking for more information on sleep? Check out our article The 5 Key Nutrients that Promote Quality Sleep.
May Promote Lung Health
Nearly 37 million Americans live with chronic lung diseases like asthma, COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis (15); thankfully, salt may help. Salt has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that loosen excessive mucus, speed up mucociliary transport, remove pathogens like airborne pollen, and reduce IgE levels, also known as immune system oversensitivity (16). These lung health benefits explain why studies have evaluated the possibility of using salt caves to treat various lung diseases in children and adults (17,18,19).
Types of Salts
Like I said before, the AHA is on the right track with some of their recommendations, but they’re not considering the other salt types and their quality, just table salt. This section will help you understand the different kinds of salts.
Kosher salt gets its name from its large grain size, making it suitable for the koshering process, which involves removing the blood from meat or poultry before preparation (20). Unlike table salt, kosher salt is usually 100% sodium chloride and contains no trace minerals, iodine, anti-clumping, or anti-caking agents (21). So the benefits of kosher salt are the same as table salt, but in a purer form, with no additives.
Maldon Sea Salt
Traditional sea salt, also known as Maldon sea salt, is sourced by evaporating seawater and generally consists of sodium chloride and trace minerals (22). Maldon sea salt is unprocessed and usually not iodized. Aside from sodium chloride, Maldon sea salt typically contains trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and other nutrients (23).
Celtic Sea Salt
Celtic sea salt, sometimes called Sel Gris or gray salt, like Malton sea salt, is harvested from seawater but sourced from France, Portugal, Hawaii, and Mexico (24). Like Malton sea salt, Celtic sea salt is unprocessed and usually not iodized. Aside from sodium chloride, Celtic sea salt typically contains trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, iodine, and zinc (25).
Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan pink salt, often referred to as pink salt, is mined from areas close to the Himalayas, often in Pakistan (26). Himalayan pink salt is minimally processed and usually not iodized. Aside from sodium chloride, Himalayan pink salt typically contains trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium (27).
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.