Table Salt Versus Sea Salt
Are you wondering if table salt or sea salt can be healthy? If either convey health benefits? If either table salt or sea salt can be harmful to your health? Just as a deer in nature seeks out salt licks because its body knows it needs that salt to thrive, our bodies need salt and its components to function well.
Salt craving are a sign we are in need of its nutrients. Processed table salt is devoid of the additional nutrients in the right balance and causes only more imbalance. Iodine is required by the thyroid to synthesize hormones and to regulate the metabolism. Iodine deficiency can lead to imbalances such as Hashimoto’s Disease (hypothyroidism) and symptoms such as poor sleep (hormones gone awry) and weight gain (metabolic imbalance). Craving salt is also a sign of adrenal fatigue. Many of our body’s organs require salt to function properly.
Problems with Table Salt
The United States started adding iodine to highly refined table salt in 1924 in response to sweeping outbreaks of goiter and increased levels of mental retardation in the northern states, where iodine-rich foods like seaweed, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale and unprocessed sea salt were short in supply. But factory-made foods containing refined salt are not fortified with iodine. Therefore, while table salt is amended with iodine, salty foods are not a source for iodine.
The potassium iodide that is added to table salt is not adequate to compensate for most iodine deficiencies. It is usually sufficient to stop goitrous boils from swelling in the neck, which are caused by an extreme deficiency. However, not enough iodine can be obtained from table salt to maintain optimal health, unless a dangerous amount of sodium is consumed. Naturally-occurring iodine is present in unadulterated sea salt with complimentary minerals, but even the vastly superior and healthier sea salt may not be enough for a tiny fraction of people who have extreme iodine deficiencies, which are caused by fluoride toxicity and other mitigating factors.
This all sounds great and straightforward: get iodine from table salt or eat foods the northerners couldn’t get their hands on, right? Instead, eliminate table salt and replace it with sea salt.
Cofactors in Salt
Factory-made salt can’t and doesn’t include iodine with the other nutrients it’s paired with in nature that help it assimilate properly. Iodized salt did help solve the goiter epidemic of the 1920’s but there was a tragic increase in a thyroid autoimmune condition, thyroiditis. Why add iodine to a highly refined product, one that usually contains aluminum (to prevent caking) instead of consuming salt in its original form?
We can trust foods found in nature. When we alter foods, we have a Frankenstein situation with unpredictable, often disease-causing effects. In its original form, salt contains trace amounts of iodine and other minerals that are valuable on their own, and in conjunction with one another, to help us to assimilate nutrients on a cellular level, called cofactors.
Trace Minerals in Salt
The electrolytes our bodies gain from salt is critical for balance because we generally eat highly processed, acidic diets. As with white, refined sugar, refined salt has been stripped of it’s nutrients and harmful, manmade chemicals have been added. This processed salt can be linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Table salt and processed foods that contain refined salt should be avoided completely and considered dangerous factory-made foods. Bring your own salt to a restaurant, however, many are providing sea salts and in variety for their additional savory flavors.
Which Trace Minerals are Found in Sea Salt?
All salt deposits contain the same mixture of elements. According to Marine Science, no matter how much salt happens to be dissolved in a given drop of ocean, it is “always made up of the same types of salts and they are always in the same proportion to each other”: 85.62% sodium chloride. Sodium is used by the body, in part, to digest carbohydrates. Chloride, among its other purposes, is used by the body to break down proteins, and also has anti-pathogen properties.
The other 14.38% are trace minerals: sulphate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, selenium, bicarbonate, iodine, iron, bromide, boron, chromium, borate, zinc, copper, strontium, and fluoride comprise a complex and subtle total of over 80 trace minerals. They regulate our hydration, digestion, and immune system as well as being required for proper thyroid and adrenal function. Selenium helps to chelate toxic heavy metals from the body. Boron helps prevent osteoporosis. Chromium regulates blood sugar levels.
Sea salt is one of the few sources for safe copper ingestion, and copper helps the body to form new arteries whenever the main arteries become too clogged. Small quantities of sea salt will actually lower the blood pressure of most individuals, because it provides the trace minerals that aid with blood pressure regulation.
Sea salts retain the trace elements while table salt has been processed to remove trace elements and include additives (more on this below). Deposits of salt can also include pollutants from the air, chemicals from rain that fell on the deposits, and elements from soil surrounding the water or deposits. Both table and sea salts may require special processing to remove impurities. In other words, sea salt and table salt share the same amount of sodium chloride, but only sea salt retains the trace elements found in saline water.
Humans often want to quantify value in terms of quantity. There has to be a lot of some measurable nutrient for us to believe it is worthy. This is just not so. Sea salt offers our bodies the subtle balance of nutrients they crave, co-factors present in perfect ratio to one another to benefit our systems.
Which natural sea salts are the best?
Every type of salt comes from a deposit that is created when salt water evaporates. There are two ways that evaporation takes place:
The first type of evaporation is part of a geological process in which an ocean or salt-water lake dried up many millions of years ago and sediments were laid down. Sometimes this salt can be found on the surface of the earth, such as the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Mostly, however, these salt beds are underground, and the salt that comes from them must be mined. This type of deposit yields both table and sea salts. The difference is the table salt has extra processing to make it white.
The second type of evaporation is a man-made process in which manufacturers mimic nature by evaporating salt water until crystals form and then processing the salt to reach a standard of desired quality. Table salt is made this way in salt refineries; sea salt is made this way by hand and/or with some mechanization.
Not all sea salt is made equally, of course. There are refined sea salts, even, those that look white. You want a salt that looks mineral rich; your eyes are a good judge. Himalayan sea salt and Celtic sea salt are also favorites.
Additionally, under U.S. law, up to 2% of table salt can be additives. These are usually an anti-clumping agent and unnatural forms of iodine, called Potassium Iodide. Potassium Iodine is the correct form. A characteristic of all salts is that they absorb water from the surrounding environment and thus clump. Table salt manufacturers ended the clumping problem by adding an anti-caking compound, approved as non-toxic, that enables the free flow of salt.
The anti-clumping agents commonly included in table salt are ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate. Aluminum intake leads to neurological disorders, particularly when no selenium is provided to help the body to chelate it. Aluminum bio-accumulates inside the body, causing further degeneration over time. Talc is a known carcinogen, though its effects upon ingestion have not been heavily studied. While it was once used in baby powders, the majority of such products now use cornstarch instead of talc, because of the known health risks. The FDA has a special provision to allow talc in table salt, even whilst it is prohibited in all other foods, due to toxicity issues. According to current regulations, table salt can be up to 2% talc. Other foods in powder form such as tea, coffee, sugar, and milk have the same problem and also use anti-clumping compounds.
Beware of Fake Sea Salt!
Some companies sell bright white salts that are labeled as “sea salt”, but they have had all of their minerals removed, just like table salt. It is the minerals that give real sea salt an off-white color. Depending on where it originates, real sea salt will be either gray or slightly pink. Salt that contains saltwater minerals is never bright white. Most of the sea salt that is available at major retailers is just as mineral depleted as table salt. These alleged sea salts sometimes contain anti-caking agents too, because they are produced by the same companies that produce table salt.
Other ways to get salt are through various therapies. Salt air is used as a respiratory therapy for asthma and other lung conditions. In addition to helping acute lung issues, these methods strengthen the immune system, calm a stressed mind, help with ear infections, seasonal allergies, and improve skin issues. Salt therapy offers both antibacterial and anti-inflammation properties.
Whether we source salt naturally to consume it or breathe it in, salt has healing effects because our bodies need it for optimum health.
LIST OF ALTERNATES TO THE THREE WHITES
- soak any nuts in sea salt water and dehydrate until crisp
- soak any beans well and prepare with sea salt and coconut palm sugar
- any fresh fruit, blend into a smoothie or eat whole
- marinade vegetables such as zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and red bell peppers in wheat free tamari or coconut aminos. Add olive or coconut oil, toss well, and top a salad. Or eat the veggies in slices dipped in coconut aminos mixed with spices.
- bake new potatoes and add coconut oil and nutritional yeast
- grains, quinoa, sprouted barley chili, sprouted rye made into living bagels, etc.
- as for salad dressings, some are good (try Annie’s) but you can always make wonderful ones from scratch using anything in your kitchen (olive oil, lemon, grapefruit juice, etc.)
- at restaurants you can pretty much eat anywhere and just request certain ways for things to be cooked, substitute items, and ask how things are prepared, they are usually very accommodating.
- for sweets and baked goods, live a little and enjoy each bite. If you make it at home switch up the flours (using almond or coconut flour, etc) and reducing/replacing fats, and trying different sweeteners or reducing them.
This is not an exhaustive list but just be conscious of your food choices. Eating real, all natural food is really energizing and delicious. Just choose the food closest to its natural state. However, the most important thing is to not be so strict. Live a little. Also don’t consider it a “diet,” consider it a lifestyle change in the way you eat. To your health!
HOW TO KICK THE SUGAR, FLOUR, AND SALT HABIT
- Get properly motivated: Because it takes work and motivation to get these whites out of your life, I recommend that you watch youtube videos and read Dr. Joseph Mercola’s thoughts on this topic (Mercola is an osteopathic physician), or read a book such as “Suicide by Sugar” by Dr. Nancy Appleton. Repeat as necessary.
- Stop drinking any form of sweetened drinks, using table salt, and eliminate pasta and bread as soon as possible: The amount of sweetener in any type of soft drink is very high. A 12-ounce can contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. If you can drop the soft drinks, you will instantly reduce your sugar habit significantly. Another obvious food item to eliminate is candy. (And don’t go for the “sugar-free” options, unless it is stevia sweetened, as these sweeteners are toxic in other ways.) This goes for adding table salt to anything. Reducing potato chip and other salt ladened products as well as breads and pastas will help you get over the belief that you need them. Use the list above to start making steps to healthier habits.
- Don’t eat or buy packaged foods: Even organic packaged foods often contain significant amounts of sugar, hidden grain ingredients, and table salt. While many of them are preferable to their non-organic counterparts, the sugar and salt content, in particular, is something to be aware of. Don’t keep these foods at home, otherwise you may find them hard to resist. Make your own snacks at home like flavored nuts, flax crackers, veggie pastas, living desserts, or eat fruit or vegetables for a snack. You will save money and be healthier!
- Make wise choices when eating out: That salad you had at the restaurant? The dressing was full of sugar, processed salt, not to mention unhealthy fats. Sugar, salt, and wheat are hidden in many dishes at restaurants, and their desserts can be tempting. If you are eating out, make sure you stick with dishes like roasted vegetables and use oil and vinegar for dressing. Bring your own homemade dressing to restaurants and enjoy a salad, sugar-free. A quick recipe for salad dressing: 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2-4 teaspoons brown mustard, 1-2 finely minced garlic cloves, 3/4 teaspoon unrefined salt. Give it a shake in a jar and you are set to go.
- Eat a well-rounded diet, especially concentrating on leafy green protein and vegetables: It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel when I am eating plenty of plant based protein and vegetables that are full of fiber. Sugar, salt and flour (bread and pasta) cravings are drastically reduced when you eat well. But it takes conscious effort to make it happen. Simply removing these whites can help improve your health, but for good health you need to fill up on good-for-you foods. Eating regular, hearty meals will ensure that you don’t eat a donut or cookie while you’re out, or reach into a co-worker’s candy jar out of hunger. Buy a new cookbook that focuses on healthy, delicious recipes, or start following the many healthy food blogs out there. Get inspired and start collecting doable but delicious healthy recipes.
- Challenge yourself to go completely “three-whites-free” for two weeks: Sometimes when you simply try to “reduce” your white consumption, you end up eating only slightly less than where you started. Go completely three-whites-free for two weeks and you will have started resetting your taste buds and gaining a lot of self-control. This is a helpful strategy especially around holidays.
- Get a friend who is interested in reducing or eliminating the thress whites to join forces with you: It could be a spouse, a walking partner, or a co-worker. If you have someone who has the same goal as you, shares healthy recipes, and exchanges food/meals, it can make it much more enjoyable and doable. If you can’t find someone in “real life,” then find an online friend.
- Deal with cravings: After a couple of days have gone by without eating any foods with sugar, flour or salt, your cravings for them should be reduced. I find it helpful to eat or drink a fermented food such as homemade sauerkraut, coconut kefir, or kombucha. The sourness of these food items counteract that sweet, salt, bread/pasta desire, plus it gives you healthy probiotics, which help reduce cravings in general.
- Go have fun: As long as you have food in your stomach, life is not all about what you can and cannot eat. Take a walk and enjoy nature, go to the park with your kids, read a good book. In other words, enjoy life. Really, you can enjoy it without these ingredients. I promise.
- Enjoy beautiful food without the three whites: Along the same lines, there is no need to mourn the loss of sweets, salty foods, bread, and pasta when there is such beautiful food to eat. Make hearty veggie chilis, soups, veggie pastas, veggie lasagnas, make a beautiful main dish salad, roast squash, toss on nuts, and enjoy a good unsweetened coconut yogurt. There are so many amazing foods to enjoy — so enjoy them. Don’t feel deprived, simply enjoy different foods.
- Use the 2 teaspoons of sugar rule: Since sugar is typically the hardest to overcome, if you find it too hard to go completely sweet-free, start using unrefined sweeteners at home, such as pure maple syrup, raw honey or coconut sugar. These sugars have minerals and vitamins intact, making them less stressful on the body. They also are less addicting and some, like coconut sugar, don’t raise blood sugar very much. Stevia is an excellent choice for those wanting something sweet without calories or any rise in blood sugar. Appleton, the previously mentioned author of “Suicide by Sugar,” found that two teaspoons of added sweetener at a time is the threshold for healthy individuals, no more than two to three times a day. So, if you find it unappealing to live a completely sweetener-free life, enjoy a bit of raw honey in a cup of tea. Drizzle pure maple syrup into unsweetened yogurt and top with berries or blend some coconut oil, coconut nectar and cacao powder for a delicious chocolate sauce.
- Pass it on to the next generation: Part of the reason adults find it hard to let go of these three whites is because they got addicted and used to it at an early age. If you have children, start them on the right food with a low-sugar, unprocessed salt, white flour-free diet. They will thank you later.
- Robert Lustig, Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar and “Sugar: the Bitter Truth”