The Truth About Salt: There is a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding salt. Today we explore this precious mineral: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’ll unpack the things to look for, what to avoid, and a few ways to optimize the benefits of salt.
The Truth About Salt: What is Salt?
Salt is a mineral that is predominantly composed of sodium chloride (NaCl). Found in salt mines and or bodies of water, this mineral is processed for human consumption through mining or evaporation.
Humans have used salt for a long time, with the earliest recorded salt processing in China and Romania dating back to 6,000 BC. Throughout history, salt was a prized possession, revered in ancient cultures, including the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Native Indians. Today salt is a primary global industry, commonly used for seasoning and food preservation.1
Salt is a mineral that is imperative for human health and life. Our bodies can operate thanks to a high concentration of nutrients, including the essential minerals found in real (natural) salt. Trace minerals you may find in sea salt include bromine, boron, phosphorus, zinc, silicon, iron, manganese, and copper.2
The Truth About Salt: Not All Salt is Created Equal
Salt has been under fire in more recent years, giving way to ‘low-sodium’ diets and labels. The problem with this is that salt in its natural state is crucial for human health and that the myth of salt being harmful to your health is misguided. Not all salt is created equal, and although natural salt is key to your survival, it can also become detrimental when chemically produced.
Natural salt (mined or evaporated from the ocean or salt lakes) contains no additives; it comes purely from nature. The table salt that gave all salt a lousy rap is table salt, the chemically produced salt found in most processed foods, including processed meat, cookies, chips, crackers, canned soups, bread, pastries, and roasted nuts.
Table salt is chemically produced and remains virtually void of any of the array of trace minerals found in natural salt. It is often bleached and may contain added chemicals like anticaking agents and contaminants like aluminum.
To truly drive the point home that natural salt and table salt are worlds apart, know that when a fish is transferred from natural saltwater (lake, ocean, or sea) to saltwater made with table salt: it dies.
Studies that previously linked salt to hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases were flawed for two reasons. First, their studies failed to distinguish natural salt from table salt. An array of studies highlight the fact that low-salt diets fail to predict balanced blood pressure.3 One study highlighted that a low sodium diet drove down blood pressure in about half the patients, with the other half experiencing a rise in blood pressure.4 Secondly, salt itself plays no role compared to other factors, including overall mineral balance and lifestyle habits (diet, alcohol consumption, etc.).4-5
Salt Quality 101
It should be clear now that you want to avoid table salt instead of all-natural salt. Examples of all-natural salts include sea salt (Celtic salt) or rock salt (pink Himalayan salt).
Finding a natural source of salt is the first step, but your second (and just as important) step is to ensure it contains no other additives, like preventatives or anticaking agents.
Finally, if your salt is coming from the sea, investing in a company that tests its salt for microplastics is crucial. A recent National Geographic exposé highlighted that 90 percent of salt contained traces of microplastics. They tested sea, rock, and lake salt sold around the world, and the high rate of plastic contamination of these bodies of water also led to contaminated salt.6
In summary, quality salt will be:
- Contain no anticaking agents or other additives
- Come with a no microplastics guarantee.
Our absolutely favorite salt regarding quality you can trust is Colima Sea Salt. Colima Sea Salt is 100% all-natural unrefined sea salt with no additives or anticaking agents. Their hand-harvested sea salt is tested and guaranteed to be 100% microplastic-free.
The Truth About Salt: Tips for Optimal Salt Use
After addressing quality, optimal salt usage will depend on quantity. The daily recommended allowance (RDA), according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reflects an outdated understanding of our relationship with salt. They fail to recognize the quality of salt (considering all forms of sodium to have the same impact on the body), and they fail to acknowledge salt and heart disease as a part of the bigger picture of lifestyle choices.7
According to the FDA, the Daily Value for sodium intake is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day, which amounts to one teaspoon. However, scientific research suggests that more is needed for optimal health. The sweet spot (or, in this case, the salty spot) for adults seems closer to two teaspoons a day of all-natural salt.8
Your salt needs will vary depending on your age, activity level, and any medical conditions. In general, someone who is more active (sweating) will require a higher mineral intake. Adults will need more than children. Addressing the impact of health conditions with salt should be done in accordance with your functional medicine practitioner.
2. First Thing in the AM to Charge your Electrical Body
After quality and quantity come timing! Our bodies require salt to function partially because our cells communicate with one another via an electrical charge. Saltwater inside the body is what enables this electrical charge and makes life possible.
Hydrating first thing in the morning is often recommended, but the real key is to ionize your water by introducing salt into the mix. Salt carries a charge that ionizes when dissolved in water, which also helps appropriately hydrate your body.
Add ½ a teaspoon of high-quality salt (like Colima Sea Salt) to a large glass of filtered water, stir until dissolved, and drink first thing in the morning!
3. As a Post-Workout Reminieralizer
The body releases minerals through sweat, so after sweat-inducing exercise, it’s vital to re-introduce minerals into the body. One of the easiest ways to introduce a mineral bomb of ionized water into your body post-workout is simply to add a pinch of high-quality salt to your water—opt out of conventional sports drinks, which are filled with artificial colors and flavors. You will find a recipe below for an all-natural homemade electrolyte drink for an even more effective post-workout boost.
4. During a Water Fast
Finally, let’s talk about the critical role that salt can play during a prolonged water fast. Like sweating, urination is one way we excrete large amounts of nutrients and minerals. A high-quality salt can and should be used during prolonged water fasting to prevent low energy or symptoms like dizziness or light-headedness.
There needn’t be any specific protocol when it comes to salt intake while fasting. Your body will intuitively know when and how much salt it needs. Starting each day with a good pinch of high-quality, all-natural salt first thing in the morning is a good idea during a fast, and then using salt only as necessary during the rest of the day.9
Recipe for All-natural Post-workout Electrolyte Drink
A homemade electrolyte drink doesn’t have to be over-complicated and contains many ingredients. Most drinks you buy on the shelf contain various artificial colors, flavors, and processed sugars. This simple recipe will replenish your lost minerals and help replenish your glycogen stores with natural sugars so that your body can work on a speedy recovery.
- 4 cups of filtered water
- Juice of 1 organic lemon
- 1 tablespoon of raw organic honey
- 1 teaspoon of Colima Sea Salt
Simply add all the ingredients to a jar with a lid and shake well. You can also use a blender if you prefer!
Salt has been wrongly demonized due to weak scientific conclusions. The more significant issue regarding health and salt is quality, which refers to an all-natural salt-free from additives. The RDA for salt intake in America runs low, and a better-suited intake for adults is about two teaspoons of high-quality all-natural salt like rock salt or sea salt. Salt plays a crucial role in human health; it can also benefit your post-workout recovery and boost your ability to water fast.
- Círillo, Massimo, et al. “A History of Salt.” American Journal of Nephrology, vol. 14, no. 4-6, 1994, pp. 426–431., doi:10.1159/000168759.
- Advisory Report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture. “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.” U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2015, health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf.
- Stolarz-Skrzypek, Katarzyna. “Fatal and Nonfatal Outcomes, Incidence of Hypertension, and Blood Pressure Changes in Relation to Urinary Sodium Excretion.” Jama, vol. 305, no. 17, Apr. 2011, p. 1777., doi:10.1001/jama.2011.574.
- Hamet, P., et al. “Epidemiological Evidence of an Interaction Between Calcium and Sodium Intake Impacting on Blood Pressure: A Montreal Study.” American Journal of Hypertension, vol. 5, no. 6 Pt 1, Jan. 1992, pp. 378–385., doi:10.1093/ajh/5.6.378.
- Taubes, Gary. “Salt, We Misjudged You.” New York Times, 2 June 2012, http://people.uncw.edu/imperialm/UNCW/PLS_506/NYTimes_OpEd_Salt_We Misjudged_You_6_3_12.pdf.
- Parker, Laura. “Microplastics Found in 90 Percent of Table Salt.” Potential Health Impacts?, 17 Oct. 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/10/microplastics-found-90-percent-table-salt-sea-salt/.
- Taubes, Gary. “The (Political) Science of Salt.” News Focus, Science Mag, 14 Aug. 1998, garytaubes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/science-political-science-of-salt.pdf.
- Odonnell, Martin J., et al. “Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion and Risk of Cardiovascular Events.” Jama, vol. 306, no. 20, 2011, doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1729.
- Aslanian, N L et al. [Dietary intake and urinary excretion of various mineral substances in patients with hypertension and ischemic heart disease]. Voprosy pitaniia, 2 (1984): 16-9.