It turns out that all salt is not created equal, my friends. Two distinctly different categories exist in the world of salt, namely table ‘salt products’ and real, all-natural salt. Though it would be convenient to tell you to just look for the phrase “sea salt” in order to make the best choice, even popular sea salt products can be far from natural and healthful after loads of processing.
Refined Salt vs Sea Salt: The Bigger Picture
So what’s the big difference between refined salt vs sea salt, and why should you ditch table salt for good?
The answer has a lot to do with nutrient density which we know is key for those with gluten sensitivity. If your goal is to stay healthy and maybe even reverse damage done to your gut and body over the years thanks to gluten, this topic will hit home because the consequences of using the wrong type of salt have bigger implications for your gut, bones and total body health.
The fear factor around salt is ridiculous. Salt serves a purpose not just on the cellular level, but also for your tastebuds. Healthy salting isn’t taught in lieu of towing a rather nonsensical health myth that salt will kill you. Sure, too much of anything is bad, but your body does require salt to function. Without a proper understanding of salt, the food you buy has either too much processed, refined salt or doesn’t have any flavor at all. The latter typically results in a total fear of salt setting up the home cook to feel demoralized and frustrated by family members displeased by tasteless food.
So if we talk about salt from a flavor perspective, it can be viewed as a flavor enhancer. When food is freshly cooked and properly spiced, salting can easily take a dish from okay to wow. It was also used for many years — and still is — to preserve food by removing water from it.
If we break salt down to a more chemical-based discussion, the real difference between refined salt vs sea salt shines through. Refined table salt is a blend of two electrolytes called sodium and chloride. To make it perfect and white, companies must process the heck out of it adding in various additives (sometime glucose), anti-caking agents and iodine. Though we need iodine for healthy thyroid function, there are other ways to get it in your diet like using kelp flakes.
Sea salt is generally a different story containing sodium, chloride and the full spectrum of trace minerals (like calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, etc) making it more nutrient-dense. Though you’ll miss out on the added iodine (unless you get a brand where it’s added in), the more colorful the sea salt demonstrates the varying quantities of trace minerals that will create pink, grey, brown and even black sea salt.
Here’s five key points to consider before salting your food…
Trace Mineral Content Counts
Though they might sound unimportant, trace minerals are in fact huge heroes to your health which underscores why common table salts and even some sea salts can be stripped of their mineral content during processing are a waste of money. The nutrient density of your salt is critical to building your health.
Dr. Kim Millman, a respected physician and featured speaker at the Women’s Gluten-free Health Summit happening this week, gets to the bottom-line of why adequate minerals are so vital. “Every single cell and organism in your body is dependent upon minerals. Salt gets this terrible reputation, but it’s because it’s refined salt that has the bad health effects. But unrefined sea salt is just the opposite. It has potassium and calcium and magnesium and a full, full complement of minerals…” that your body needs to function properly.
And Dr. Millman has found that these naturally-occurring minerals in sea salt can even help kick sugar cravings! “One of the biggest tips I have is that if you love sugar and you have sugar cravings, one of the best things you can do is have sea salt. Sea salt really helps sugar cravings because one of the things that our bodies lack is our trace minerals.”
Production Methods Matter: Know Where Your Salt Comes From
Knowing the source of your salt can answer a few key questions that can help to determine:
- … how pure and natural it is.
- … how many companies have handled it before it reaches your table.
- … if chemicals were used to bleach it.
- … and if it’s sea salt, what sea is it from and are the key minerals intact.
Darryl Bosshardt of Real Salt in Redmond, Utah is uniquely passionate about transparency and the cleanest production methods possible. He stresses that unrefined salt, such as what’s found in the Real Salt mine discovered under his grandfather’s farm in Utah, is already in its perfect form. There’s no need for additional additives or processing.
“We want people to know our story and we want people to know where their salt comes from,” Darryl states while discussing Real Salt with One Degree Organics. “We want people to see what we don’t do to it (Real Salt), which is more important than what we do do to it.” The processing is simple; they crush the rocks, screen it to make sure there is no foreign residue, and bag it. That’s it!
The clean and simple production method of Real Salt benefits its consumers in a way others might not since it contains a whopping 60 essential trace minerals.
Love the Colorful Salt
Suzy Cohen, registered pharmacist, best-selling author and columnist, notes that most people, “have been ‘brainwashed’ to think that salt with color is weird, and white salt is normal.”
“But white salt is nutritionally naked. White salt is the weird salt… Chlorine is used to bleach refined salts as opposed to the natural ones which still have color. The colors you see in salt indicate they still have their minerals.”
So when you see pink, ivory, or multicolored specks in all natural salt, do not be alarmed! This is a move in the right direction of identifying a high quality, nutrient-dense, healthful salt.
Do You Really Want to Eat Anti-caking Agents & More Sugar?
Additives in common iodized table salts can include anti-caking agents, such as calcium silicate, in order to make the salt more free-flowing. However, these anti-caking agents have no nutritional benefits and wouldn’t otherwise be in your body. There are a whole slew of additives with varying names that can be put into refined table salts.
Sugar, or dextrose, is often added to stabilize the added iodide. While it may be argued that the dextrose isn’t added in heaps, added sugar is not present in all natural salt and isn’t needed to stabilize anything. Sea salt has a completely natural sweetness which can be attributed to all those essential minerals.
And while iodine is in fact a necessary nutrient for many processes in the body including thyroid health, adding it to a salt product that’s been robbed of other minerals may not be the best way to get it. Some natural salts, such as Real Salt, contains naturally occurring iodine.
While the level of natural iodine does fall below the recommended daily amount, it can be met by incorporating other natural foods high in iodine. The American Thyroid Association recommends dairy products like eggs, sea vegetables like kelp flakes or nori sheets (unaffected by the Japanese nuclear disaster), saltwater fish, and shellfish. (source: http://www.thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/)
Better Health Requires Better Salt
Often when minerals are missing from the diet and therefore the body, complications can arise and health can plummet. According to Dr. David Brownstein, a Board Certified family physician and Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine, by adding the good kind of salt to your diet, it can help with energy levels, adrenal problems, immune system disorders, thyroid health, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and more.
In Dr. Brownstein’s best-selling book, Salt Your Way to Health, he states that salt is a vital substance in one’s diet. Even more shocking when you take into account the mainstream push against salt consumption is that low-salt diets being good for you are just a myth. Again, it all comes down to picking the right kind of salt; unrefined and real.
** This post is sponsored by Real Salt & Remond Trading Company.