Blood, sweat, and tears share a common ingredient: salt. We cannot function without it. The functions of heart, liver, kidneys, digestion, and adrenal glands are dependent on some percentage of salt. Yet we have been told repeatedly that salt will elevate blood pressure. In most minds, this has become an established connection; salt = high blood pressure.
From the variety of opinions regarding salt in the diet, it would seem fitting that beside the word controversy in the dictionary would be a picture of a salt shaker. Opinions on salt run the gamut from black to white: It''s bad. It''s good. It''s unnecessary. It’s vital.
For years, physicians have pointed their fingers at salt and attributed numerous degenerative conditions to our excessive intake. Excessive is the key word here; some Japanese researcher claimed that salt excess in Japan varies from 6 to 8 teaspoons daily, while in America, conservative estimates put it at 4 to 5 teaspoons – on a daily basis! Considering that the America Heart Association recommends healthy American adult maintain an average of 1 to 1¼ teaspoons daily (2400 milligrams), this consumption of salt redefines the meaning of excess.
Today, most low-salt diets are prescribed to relieve kidney problems and hypertension. In hypertension, the blood vessels are constricted by over consumption of salt. This forces the heart, in a Herculean effort, to pump blood through strangled capillaries (with an incredibly small diameter of approximately 4 microns or 0.000004 meter). The sodium also draws water from blood cells and blood vessels, shrinking surrounding tissues and causing dehydration process. Lower back ache (kidney pain), thirst cravings, eye-facial edema (puffiness) are also characteristic of excess salt.
Such reactions are, obviously, due to excessive salt consumption and warrant restriction. But the need for salt cannot be overlooked or devalued; a lack of salt can lead to poor intestinal muscle tone and symptoms of loose bowel (diarrhea). Salt helps to keep blood vessels and cells slightly contracted and keep the body warm. This is one of the reasons more salt is consumed in the winter by most cultures in temperate climates. However, an excess of salt can restrict circulation and create more vulnerability to cold.
A more comprehensive look at the mechanism of what makes blood pressure rise is given attention in Lot''s Wife – Salt & the Human Condition, by Sallie Tisdale:
It is an astonishing widespread belief that salt causes high blood pressure and a low-salt diet relieves it; that once a person''s blood pressure begins to climb they are doomed to salt-free diet for life. Clearly, sodium is involved, and the reninangiotension-aldosterone system is intricately related to sodium metabolism. The kidneys are involved. Blood volume involved. But what happens, really, when a person with high blood pressure cuts back on sodium? With some people, their blood pressure rises. The research in new, for no one had considered this possibility until a few year ago. There is a cautious consensus beginning to appear that only about 40% of the hypertension population will have a lower blood pressure on a low-salt diet. Thirty out of the hundred people will stay the same – a vain sacrifice – and the other 30 will have higher blood pressure.
The need for salt is well known. What is not well known is the poor and harsh quality of ordinary “table salt”. All salt is actually sea salt, or, at least, at one time was sea salt. Inland rock salt deposits were once dissolved in the great ocean that covered our earth over 300 million years ago, before shifts in the earth''s crust buried parts of the original sea. Rainfall over eons has leached some of the non sodium chloride minerals out of rock salt deposits and washed them into the sea. As a result, sea salt is somewhat higher in “trace minerals” (silicon, calcium, copper, nickel, etc) than common rock salt. In fact, there are approximately 84 buffering elements in natural, solar-dried sea salt to protect our bodies from the harshness of pure sodium chloride.
Natural salts, those dried by a solar evaporation process, are made of larger crystals and still contain their matrix of valuable trace minerals. However, natural sea salts do not “free flow”. Since they are not coated with a water-repelling chemical, salt naturally attracts moisture from the air. Sun-dried, solar sea salt cannot be shook evenly from a salt shaker. You can’t pour it on your food as you converse over the dinner table. This is one of the characteristics of good-quality salt; it appears “damp”.
Suddenly, the slogan “When it rains, it pours” has renewed meaning.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH COMMON TABLE SALT?
Mass-produced and refined table salt is 99.99 percent sodium chloride, regardless of its origin. This refined salt is made of uniformly fine crystals – made fine by a 1200 °F oven heating process and then flash-cooled. To add insult to injury, refined salt is then combined with a number of additives; potassium iodine is added to salt to “iodize” it, providing “antigoiter” comfort. Iodine is essential to the formation of thyroid hormones. However, iodine is very volatile and oxidizes immediately when exposed to light. Because of this, dextrose, a simple sugar, must be added to stabilize the iodine in iodized table salt. This gives birth to another problem: Adding only the two ingredients of potassium iodine and dextrose would turn the salt purple. This is not marketable; therefore, a little sodium bicarbonate is mixed in to bleach the color. Finally, the crystals are coated with a compound such as sodium silico aluminate (note all the extra sodium compounds in “table” salt) to make that the salt will be “free flowing” in humid conditions.
Sea Salt Versus Table Salt – The Taste Test
Naturally solar-evaporated sea salt has a uniquely different taste, but don''t believe me. Be your own judge by taking a simple taste test. Put a couple of table salt grains directly on your tongue. Notice that the initial taste is sharp, salty, and acrid with a lingering flavor that can be harsh, metallic, and distinctly unpleasant.
Now, rinse your mouth and try several grains of sea salt. Notice a difference? Its taste is slightly sweet, smooth, pleasant, and satisfying. It''s amazing to realize how sensitive taste buds can be. They have the ability to distinguish subtle differences of artificial ingredients versus natural ingredients from two separate salts in an identical sodium chloride base. Good quality sea salt has the natural advantage of being able to enhance the flavor of other ingredients.
Extract from the book “Nature''s Cancer-Fighting Foods.” By Verne Varona.