Salt has become a popular cooking ingredient to enhance flavor. Salt is used for both flavors, and as a preservative. Salt helps to preserve food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mold need to grow. Hence, preserving the food from spoiling as quickly.
There are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. They come from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of saltwater.
The most common salt is regular table salt. This salt is highly refined – meaning that it is heavily ground, with most of its impurities and trace minerals removed. When salt is heavily ground it is prone to clumping. To prevent this, a substance called anti-caking agents are added to allow you to sprinkle it from your saltshaker.
Sea salt is made from evaporating sea water. It is mainly sodium but also contains various trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. The darker the sea salt, the more trace nutrients. Sea salt is typically more course and does not require the anti-caking agents.
Himalayan Pink Salt is mined in Pakistan. The pink colour comes from trace amounts of iron oxide (rust). Himalayan salt also contains calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium making it slightly lower in sodium than table salt.
Kosher Salt is used in Jewish cuisine in meat preparations. Traditional Jewish law requires that blood be extracted from meat before it is eaten. Kosher salt has a flaky, course structure which is particularly efficient for this process. Other than the shape, it is comparable to table salt from a mineral perspective. Kosher salt will not however, need the anti-caking agents.
What all the different types of salt have in common is that infamous mineral: sodium.
Would you be surprised to know that 75% of our salt intake comes not from the saltshaker? It comes from processed foods. Snacks like chips, pretzels and salted nuts, crackers. As are canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, breads and buns, restaurant food, and fast food.
Salt vs. Sodium
Salt is actually “sodium chloride.” It’s about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.
Sodium itself is not that bad. In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an important electrolyte in the body. It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function. I had to highlight this because I hate the salt haters. We need it for normal and optimal bodily functions. Sodium is not the problem. Too much sodium is the problem. And the highest sources of consuming too much sodium is from eating processed foods. So, to be clear, that is anything that did not grow in the ground, from a tree or at one point was walking around. Its that simple. If it’s a packaged health bar, processed. A sub sandwich from your favorite shop, processed. The baked chips vs fried, processed. Cereal, processed. Canned soup, processed. From a restaurant, processed. Do you see where I am going here? I seem to be coming across a lot of people who either do not fully understand that these foods are processed foods, or they are trying to justify them. Its pretty simple. Grow it or farm it or understand that it is processed and likely contains high levels of sodium.
Too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.
That one teaspoon with about 2,000 mg of sodium is pretty much your entire days’ worth of sodium. People who eat a lot of pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat way too much sodium. In fact, 90% of American adults consume more than 2,300 mg per day. The average intake is closer to 3,400 mg of sodium per day!
If you’re at high risk for those conditions, then you probably shouldn’t have more than just 1,500 mg of sodium each day.
Sodium and high blood pressure
How does salt increase blood pressure? And what does that have to do with it making you thirsty?
Well, there actually is something called “salt-sensitive high blood pressure.” Here’s how it works:
The salt you eat gets absorbed quickly and goes into the blood.
Your body recognizes that the blood is too salty, so more water is added to the blood to dilute it (i.e. with thirst signals to make you drink more fluid). More water in the blood means more fluid your heart needs to pump and more fluid pushing against the walls of your vessels. It also sends more blood to the kidneys so the sodium can be filtered out into the urine.
This is how too much sodium increases your blood pressure. Increased blood pressure also puts a strain on your kidneys and other sensitive vessels, including critical vessels in your brain and heart.
You can counteract this effect by reducing the amount of salt you eat specifically from processed foods. Limiting salt intake has been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure.
To more effectively reduce high blood pressure, eat more whole foods, and more mineral-rich plant foods.
If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. In this case, feel free to add a bit of mineral rich salt during cooking or at the table for flavor.
If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this most effectively by reducing your intake of processed foods, add less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods.
Still feel like it might need a little something? CLICK HERE for a simple spice recipe to jazz things up.
Changing your eating habits can be challenging, I get it. You may have been eating the same types of things for years. But when health becomes a concern and it becomes clearer that plant based is the way to go, I can help. CLICK HERE to book a free call and discuss how you can add more plants into your meals without sacrificing flavor.