Second to water, salt is the most essential nutrient for the human body. Unfortunately, salt has received a bad reputation over the years. Various studies conducted with incomplete salts have misled many to believe that salt is unhealthy and therefore best avoided.
We beg to differ! To be fair, the kind of salt you eat matters greatly. Just as grain-fed beef is not the same as grass-fed beef, refined vegetable oils are not the same as coconut oil, and conventional produce is not the same as organic produce, table salt is not the same as mineral-rich sea salt.
The Standard American Diet is deficient in trace minerals across the board. Incorporating good quality salt rich in nutrients and electrolytes is essential for optimal health and can be an effective step in preventing those deficiencies.
The Difference Between Table Salt and Sea Salt
Sea salt contains naturally occurring trace minerals like calcium, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, copper, iodine, and zinc. It is sourced from evaporated sea water and readily available in an unbleached, unrefined form.
Conversely, regular table salt comes from mining salt deposits. It is 97.5 percent sodium chloride and 2.5 percent moisture absorbents and anti-caking agents such as potassium ferrocyanide and silicon dioxide. When table salt is refined, beneficial trace minerals are removed. Dried at over 1200℉, the excessive heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt. What remains is chemically cleaned sodium chloride, an unnatural chemical form of salt that your body recognizes as something foreign.
Why the Body Needs Salt
Historically salt has long been considered a health-supportive nutrient, so much so that the Latin word for health–“salus”–was derived from “sal” (salt). In the Middle Ages, salt was often prescribed as a treatment for stomach issues, oral pain, and mental despondence.
Fast forward to today and the benefits of salt are still far reaching and much more widely researched.
1. Salt improves electrolyte balance.
Did you know your body contains 4-8 ounces of salt at any given time? Adequate salt consumption helps maintain normal blood volume and also helps correct the balance of water in and around our cells and tissues. In this video, Dr. Mitch Sutton explains the important role salt plays in maintaining electrolyte balance in our extracellular and intracellular fluid.
In short, consuming sea salt ensures you are maintaining a sufficient sodium level, which will help balance electrolyte ratios (namely sodium and potassium). Sodium and potassium work synergistically to maintain the proper balance of fluids in your blood plasma.¹
2. Salt supports metabolism and digestion.
Salt plays an important role in supporting healthy metabolism and blood sugar regulation. Low salt diets have been shown to increase insulin resistance in otherwise healthy individuals.²
Salt also supports digestion. Digestion begins in the mouth through the activation of salivary enzymes that begin breaking down food. The taste of salt contributes to the activation of these enzymes, namely salivary amylase, and therefore helps trigger the breakdown of nutrients.
The production of hydrochloric acid, which is secreted in the stomach and also assists in the breakdown of food (especially protein), is significantly supported by adequate sodium levels as well. Individuals with low hydrochloric acid can experience digestive discomfort such as bloating, heartburn, indigestion, and even more chronic conditions like leaky gut.³
3. Salt promotes optimal brain and nervous system health.
Sodium is an essential nutrient for proper brain and nervous system function. It is required for the transmission of electrical signals in the body. Without these signals firing correctly, nearly every process in the body can be disrupted. Salt is necessary for the formation and proper function of nerve fibers, which carry impulses to and from the brain. If this communication system is not working properly, the brain and nervous system both may be inclined to suffer.⁴
Symptoms of Electrolyte Deficiency
Major electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are found in sea salt. From regulating your heartbeat to allowing your muscles to contract and relax for daily movement, electrolytes are essential for optimal health.
If you are deficient in electrolytes you may experience:
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Restless legs
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Thyroid issues
- Adrenal issues
- Kidney stones
- Brain fog
- High blood pressure
- Water retention
If you have limited your salt intake in the past, do not regularly consume high quality sea salt, drink a lot of water with no electrolytes or salt added, or exercise intensely, there is a good chance you may be electrolyte deficient.
How do you reverse or prevent the dangers of electrolyte deficiency? The simplest way is to increase your intake of unrefined, high quality sea salt.
Shopping for Salt
Read labels carefully. Look for sea salt that is…
- Unrefined. This means the salt will still contain all of its trace minerals. Nothing has been stripped away.
- Unbleached. The salt should be gray in color. If it is pure white, the salt has been bleached.
- Celtic Sea Salt is our brand of choice. We love it for its unrefined nature (nothing added, nothing removed) and exceptional flavor.
Eat More Salt
Incorporating more high quality salt into your diet comes with an excellent side benefit: all of your food will taste better!
Salt naturally improves the flavor of just about everything it’s added to. In addition to adding it to your savory meals (salads, soups, vegetables, etc.), try adding a pinch of salt to your morning smoothie, coffee, or tea as well. A pinch of sea salt is also a great way to bump up the flavor dimension of fruit bowls, grapefruit, applesauce, and tomato-based sauces. Sodium is a flavor enhancer that pairs just as well with sweet foods as it does with savory.
As we often say here at The Wellness Way, the most accurate way to determine what is going on with your body is not to guess but to test. If you suspect you may have health issues stemming from imbalanced electrolytes, we’d love to see you at one of our clinics to help you discover your unique health needs.