Salt— the most widely used choice of food seasoning across the globe comes in many forms with some of the most popular including: table salt, kosher salt and Himalayan pink salt.
Heath messaging and the media claim we should avoid it like the plague to decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, but some of these messages need to be taken with, ehh, a grain of salt.
In this article we’ll take a look at the benefits of consuming the ‘right’ kind of salt and how it translates to better health such as favourable body pH balance, increased stomach acid production, and a reduction in sugar cravings.
Why are salts good for the body?
Salt is a naturally occurring mineral essential for life that plays an important role in maintaining human health. It’s also the main source of sodium and chloride ions available in the human diet.
Your body uses salt for many important functions such as balancing fluids in the blood and maintaining healthy blood pressure. Furthermore, salt is also essential for proper nerve and muscle function. (1)
A complete absence of salt in the diet would be fatal (you’ll literally die!).
However, before you go rushing to the cupboard to load up on salt it’s crucial you’re consuming the right kind.
Which salts are best for your body?
Table salt, also known as refined salt is the most readily available salt in supermarkets today. However, it’s perhaps the worst for our bodies. During the refining process, this salt has been chemically cleaned and stripped of its natural minerals and nutrients meaning a salt that started out as beneficial has now been transformed into an altered state. (2)
Kosher salt has a large flake size and is known to be quite versatile over other types of salt. It is used in the ‘koshering process’ by which blood is removed from the flesh of meat and fowl before it is prepared for eating.
Kosher salt is a great source of sodium needed to maintain vital bodily functions such as fluid balance and nerve and muscle functions. In addition, it doesn’t contain any iodine or additives such as anti-caking agents unlike many other types of salt. (3)
Sea salt comes from a natural source and contains essential nutrients and minerals often lacking in the modern diet and has been used by our ancestors for thousands of years to season food and boost health. (4)
Himalayan pink salt
Mined near the Himalayas in Pakistan, this salt is loaded with minerals not found in regular table salt like calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron, providing many incredible health benefits. (5)
Pink Himalayan salt can be used for cooking but also has non-dietary uses such as bath salts.
Fleur de sel (flower of salt)
An unprocessed salt with a high level of sodium chloride that contains a wide variety of nutrients and mineral salts with some 84 trace elements including iron, zinc, magnesium, iodine, calcium, potassium, copper and fluoride – many more than other types of salt.
Black and red Hawaiian salt
Red Hawaiian salt contains a high iron content useful to restore iron levels in someone with a deficiency. Whereas Black Hawaiian salt includes activated charcoal, which is used to detoxify. These minerals are often removed from table salt, which is why Hawaiian salt is thought to be a healthier alternative
5 science-based health benefits of salt
1. Positively affects pH levels
The alkaline diet helps prevent the body from becoming too acidic. However, to remove excess acids, we need a helping hand.
The skin, lungs, and kidneys are the body’s 3 major organs that flush out acids. Sometimes these acids become difficult to remove due to years of following the wrong diet and end up building up in deep layers of tissue.
Salt being an alkaline substance can help immensely. But it’s important the salt you choose contains the core alkaline minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Try adding a pinch of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt to a glass of water to instantly boost alkalinity.
2. Helps make stomach acid
Salt brings nutrients into all of our cells and is also responsible for helping move waste out.
Chloride, a key component found in salt, is the main component of stomach acid and hydrochloric acid (HCI) which is important for digestion.
When stomach acid is low, minerals and nutrients needed by the body will not be absorbed.
Signs of low stomach acid include heartburn, reflux, gas and bloating.
Without adequate HCl, the body will not receive balanced nutrition and as a result, many body systems suffer. (6)
3. May reduce sugar cravings
Did you know that not getting enough salt will make your sugar craving harder to shake?
By making the addictive pathways in the brain a lot more sensitive to these kinds of substances.
Your body kicks into action to maintain enough salt to perform its critical functions when salt intake is low.
Low salt levels can trigger internal starvation, a process which makes your body start to crave sugar even more. By increasing salt intake, you will find it easier to get your sugar cravings under control.
For example, the kidneys have difficulty functioning properly without sodium, so the body raises insulin levels to hold on to the sodium they need. These increased insulin levels make it difficult for the body to break down protein and fat stored for energy, but great for breaking down carbohydrates. So it’s no wonder you start craving more and more sugar!
There is some good news here, however. By replenishing your body’s salt supply, you could make those double-fudge brownies and frosted shortbread cookies far less irresistible. (7)
4. Balances electrolytes and keeps you hydrated
We all know that water is the essence of life and drinking enough of it is a key pillar of health. But did you know that the amount of water you drink is only one factor affecting your hydration levels?
It’s also vital that you’re getting enough electrolytes and not losing too many of them throughout the day.
And the most important of all those electrolytes for fluid balance are sodium and potassium which just so happens to be found in abundance in salts like sea salt, fleur de sel and pink Himalayan salt.
Research suggests that inadequate intake of sodium and potassium is linked to higher blood pressure and muscle cramping. (8)
5. Supports a healthy nervous system
Sodium and potassium together act as a chemical battery that powers our nerve impulses, helping muscles contract and relax normally.
When one nerve cell needs to communicate with another, special channels are opened that allow sodium to flood in telling the nerve cell to fire resulting in a chain reaction of events.
This signal is then carried from nerve cell to nerve cell until it reaches the brain or muscle for action. (9)
Q: What to look for in a good salt?
A: Look for salt that contains sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, all of which you need for optimal health. These minerals must come from your diet because your body can’t create them.
Q: What happens if you don’t get enough electrolytes?
A: Without sufficient electrolytes, you can experience irregular heartbeat, fatigue, nausea, and even seizures.
Q: Can you live without salt?
A: The human body can’t live without salt. It’s needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibres (including those in the heart and blood vessels), and maintain a proper fluid balance.
Q: How much salt should you consume every day?
A: It is recommended to eat around 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily or 6 grams. This equates to approximately 1 teaspoon of salt per day.
Q: What is the difference between sodium and salt?
A: Sodium is a part of salt, salt is comprised of sodium and chloride.
You’ve grown up hearing too much salt is bad. However, our bodies need salt to function properly and to carry out important functions.
Salt helps balance pH levels, keeps sugar cravings at bay, and transmits electrical nerve impulses along with a list of other benefits.
Consuming the right kind of salt is crucial. Look for salts with a high mineral content such as Himalayan pink salt or Sea salt and ditch the regular old table salt. Both of these are great sources of sodium to help maintain optimum health.