Could salt be good for us?

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Salt is viewed like saturated fat – a villain.  We are all told to eat less salt since excess salt raises our blood pressure.  And many people follow this advice to the letter, preparing all their own food and not adding a grain of salt to most of it.  However, the statement that salt is bad for you is very misleading.  It just isn’t that simple. Here is a link to an article published July 2011 in Scientific American  which categorically states that studies on whether salt raises blood pressure or not   can either find no statistical link – or have, in fact, found the opposite to be true.  And the salt that the people taking part in the study would have been eating is the usual refined salt that most people eat.

The above video of Dr Edward Group is very informative and covers the importance of having sufficient good salt in the diet.  These are his key points:

  • Salt helps balance blood sugar
  • It helps the body cells generate electrical energy
  • It is a natural anti-histamine by regulating the phlegm in the sinuses and nose
  • It helps prevent osteoporosis
  • It helps prevent muscle cramping
  • It helps balance irregular heart beats
  • It promotes healthy sleep patterns
  • It improves sex life – he doesn’t elucidate on this.

However, how much salt an individual needs is individual.  For a few, salt in any form is toxic and should be restricted.  For most, good quality salt is very important for health.  And some people genetically require more than others.  How much exercise is done and how much protein is eaten are important determinants.  The more of both we do, the more salt we need.  And the term exercise covers both aerobic, sports and weight lifting.   If we sweat, we lose salt.  If we sweat regularly and find we start cramping or sleeping badly, it would be very wise to eat more salt as a first course of action.

The other population group that has a need for more salt is the exhausted.  If we have been working hard and under pressure for some time, our adrenal glands slowly get exhausted. There are several signs of this: an increased craving for salt; waking up in the middle of the night with a start; finding it very hard to get going in the morning.  It is all a bit complicated, but a simple version is that due to constant stress, the kidneys, as part of the stress response, keep pumping out urine, so depleting the body of electrolytes, of which salt is a major player; the adrenals exhaust and can pump out less and less cortisol.  Now cortisol should be high in the morning and through the course of the day it slowly declines, being at its lowest in the evening.  During the night cortisol levels should slowly start rising again in readiness for the morning.  When the adrenals are exhausted, this does not happen.  At night not enough cortisol is produced which the brain senses, so it will produce adrenalin instead –  which is why we wake with a start.  In the morning, the lack of cortisol makes it very hard to wake up and get going.  If this sounds familiar, try adding good salt to food. Another simple cure is to drink water with some salt added to it first thing in the morning (try ¼ tspn) and add a pinch of salt to a bottle of drinking water.

So what sort of salt should we be looking for?  What is good salt?  A good salt is NOT white.  It will be a mucky green/grey, or it could be pink.  The most readily available types are Celtic sea salt, Himalayan rock salt or Hawaiian Red Sea salt.  The composition of Celtic sea salt, for example, is 82% sodium chloride,14% other minerals, for example magnesium and potassium and unrefined iodine.  The latter is very important since it is retained in the tissues for a long time, so a little goes a long way.  Needless to say, any other white salt, even an expensive sea salt, is stripped of the minerals and only contains sodium chloride and anti caking compounds.  It is a good rule of thumb that the more something has been fiddled about with, the worse it is for us, and this holds absolutely true for salt.  Finally, Celtic sea salt is a wet salt, so it is not possible to grind it in an ordinary salt grinder.  This means either tracking down a wet salt grinder – Peugeot make a couple – or pounding the salt yourself or the salt can be bought ready ground from companies like Regenerative Nutrition.

So good salt is very good for most of us.  Some of us need more than others – primarily the exhausted and those that exercise regularly.  We need to find coloured, unrefined salts and we do need to avoid prepared foods as much as possible since these will be full of refined salt .  And if the food has reduced salt, it has increased something else for the flavour – and that is unlikely to be some nice herbs.  So, for the huge majority of us, sprinkle the salt over food and enjoy.

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