Which type of salt is most useful? Is it true sea salt is better even than the modern Himalayan salt? Peter, 56 y.
Salt plays a very important role in our life. 75% of the human body is made of water which contains certain amounts of dissolved salt or sodium chloride /NaCl/. Physiologically speaking, this compound helps in number of vital functions in our organism: muscle work, proper nerve impulse conduction, transport of nutrients inside the cell, regulation of the intracellular pressure.
The main types of salt, which we know, are: table or sodium salt, sea salt, kosher salt (salt with larger grain size and without additives), iodized salt (a variety of table salt but with higher content of iodine), potassium salt, fluoridated salt and the recently popular Himalayan salt. Cooking or table salt is derived from underground salt mines. It is processed at high temperatures in order to eliminate microelements and other impurities. When the salt is purified, all that is left is sodium and chlorine, but other substances are added afterwards. The beneficial substance which can be added in it is potassium iodide. The obtained iodized salt is used for prevention of iodine deficit and the linked with this deficit diseases of the thyroid, occurring when insufficient iodine is consumed with the food (iodine poor soils) or in case of radioactive pollutions. It is important to buy iodized salt only in opaque package, as the light has unfavorable effect and destroys its valuable properties.
Fluoride is another possible additive, important for dental health. In most of the countries with non-fluoridated drinking water, adding potassium or sodium fluoride in the combined or common salt is a practice. In Bulgaria the water is fluoridated in the water supply of the settlements, so there is no fluoride deficit or shortage. Additional amounts of this substance are found in almost every toothpaste.
Potassium salt is used in the production of combined diet salt together with sodium salt and the aim is to synchronize the water balance in the body. This salt is recommended not to be taken separately, as it can lead to life-threatening conditions linked with the water loss.
In order to keep the salt from sticking, toxic metals are added sometimes and they are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and some types of cancer. Aluminum is naturally bitter but adding sugar hides this.
Very little processing is required for the production of sea salt, as it is obtained by simply evaporating sea water. Thus more than 80 microelements remain in it, including iron, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, potassium and iodine. Sea water usually is not iodized but contains natural iodine in very small amounts. It is proven it maintains human’s organism functions as it strengthens the immune system, stabilizes the cardiac rhythm and regulates the blood pressure.
Himalayan salt is known with its perfect crystal structure, created in the Himalayas – the largest energy center on Earth. This natural product is considered absolutely natural and pure and is also known as “white gold” not by chance, in spite of its pink color. It is derived naturally – excavated, washed by hand and sun-dried. Himalayan crystal salt was formed as a result of specific geological processes more than 250 million years ago. Its pink color is due to the iron atoms included in the crystal lattice in large cubic crystals which are one of the most perfect forms in nature. The other elements in the salt content, except iron, are: sulfur, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium, the last in significantly lower amounts than in the ordinary cooking salt.
Himalayan salt is given countless beneficial properties most of which it achieves in combination with other chemical substances we consume: alkalization and restoration of the salt balance; stimulation the action of the nerve cells and improvement in the transport of information; normalization of blood pressure; positive effect in the treatment of skin and respiratory diseases; improvement of cell metabolism and nutrition as a whole including the better absorption of drugs and additives; prevents muscle cramps, strengthens bones and considerably lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis; especially useful during pregnancy as it improves the composition of the amniotic fluid.
On the other hand, you should never forget that no matter the type of salt, the recommended daily intake of salt for healthy people is no more than 6g. The mass consumption sometimes reaches 9-10 g per day. Different scientific researches show that lowering the amount of salt in the daily menu with 3-4 g will prevent the death of 92 thousands per year, or in other words said it will decrease the stroke incidences with 99 thousands per year. The amount of salt we pour with the saltshaker on the table is only 10-15% of the total amount we consume. Main sources of salt are the ready-packaged foods and meals which are prepared by the households. So, when calculating the amount of consumed salt, we should have in mind not only the added on the table, but also the salt we take with each food. Processed meat, meat products and bread are with high salt content. The ready-packaged products, which are digested during the day, contain around 75% of the middle dose of salt per person. Salt is added in the food production process as a preservative and for improving the taste qualities. Sodium is present also in monosodium glutamate and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
So, answering the question which salt is the healthiest, it is clear this is the raw or the least processed one, not only because it contains more minerals but also it has no other additives.
Vary with the taste on your table with sea or Himalayan salt but be careful with the amounts and do not exceed the recommended daily doses.
In order to obtain the real amount of salt in the products, multiply by 2.5 the sodium content given on the label. If you suffer from high blood pressure, cirrhosis or kidney failure, you have to decrease the amount of the sodium intake up to 2 g or 5 g of salt per day, but you will receive the most adequate and correct advice from your doctor.